Saturday, February 25, 2006

Good people of South Dakota, hear my plea:

The first thing you all need to do is rise up to unseat a large percentage of your political leaders. Once this has been accomplished, you need to look into getting a new state song. Because–I’m sorry to say–the one you have really sucks:

Hail! South Dakota!
Written by DeeCort Hammitt
Composed by DeeCort Hammitt

Hail! South Dakota, A great state of the land,
Health, wealth and beauty, That's what makes her grand;
She has her Black Hills, And mines with gold so rare,
And with her scenery, No other state can compare.

Come where the sun shines, And where life's worth your while,
You won't be here long, 'Till you'll wear a smile;
No state's so healthy, And no folk quite so true,
To South Dakota. We welcome you.

Hail! South Dakota, The state we love the best,
Land of our fathers, Builders of the west;
Home of the Badlands, and Rushmore's ageless shrine,
Black Hills and prairies, Farmland and Sunshine.
Hills, farms and prairies, Blessed with bright Sunshine.

Allow me to enumerate my objections to this in a series of bullet-points

● The exclamation points in the title: I don’t see the need for them. Why couldn’t it be just “Hail, South Dakota”? Perhaps some booster-types might feel that “Hail, South Dakota!” better captures the excitement and forward momentum of the state, but they’re wrong and shouldn’t be listened to. However, I feel that even most of them, when pressed, would have to agree that “Hail! South Dakota!” borders on the hysterical.

● The first verse is essentially a series of escalating boasts that would make a gangsta rapper blush. “And with her scenery, No other state can compare”? Oh, really, Ms. DeeCort Hammitt? Aren’t you gilding the lily a little bit here? Idaho, California and Oregon all offer spectacular vistas, beautiful greenery, and top-notch recreation, yet their state songs are more circumspect about it. What are you hiding behind your cheery bunkum, South Dakota? Because that’s what I wonder when I hear a braggart who won’t shut up about their “Health, wealth, and beauty”...

● “Come where the sun shines” seems to be a blatant ripoff from the old standard “How High The Moon”

● “You won’t be here long, ‘Till you wear a smile”? Christ, that’s embarrassing. Even Kentucky, Delaware, and Oklahoma can do better than that. And from there, South Dakota goes on to give us a bunch of creepy master race doggerel. “No folk so true”, Ms. Hammitt? “To South Dakota. We welcome you.”, you say? Are you a state full of emotionally-dead pod people? Of unfeeling automatons? Is that the impression you want to put across? I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.

● Mt. Rushmore is not an “ageless shrine”. It is an oversized kitsch sculpture of a bunch of dead Presidents. No amount of poetic affectation can gloss over that fact. Best to avoid the subject altogether and focus instead on your state’s agreeable business climate, fine schools, low crime rate, or something like that.

● What’s with all the repetition in the last two lines? How come we’ve get to hear about your “hills, farms, and prairies” and “sunshine” twice? Were you trying for a subtle poetic effect, DeeCort? The trouble here is that you’re not a subtle poet. It just sounds bad. Someone should replace that “echo-ey” last line with something about how Tom Brokaw comes from there. Or maybe a little bit about how all of South Dakota’s fetuses are warm and safe. Make it a touch more contemporary, a touch “edgier”, if you know what I mean...

● I count three references to South Dakota’s “sunshine”. This is disingenuous at best. It seems clear to me that South Dakota, with the assistance of Ms. DeeCort Hammill, is attempting to confuse the American citizenry into thinking that it is, in reality, not South Dakota at all, but South Carolina, a state with beaches, palmetto trees, and actual sunshine. This is the sort of deplorable chicanery that has no place in an official state song. I call on all thoughtful, broad-minded and honest Dakotans to repudiate this monstrosity.

And then, when you’re done with that, I can think of a few other things you ought to repudiate.