I Hear Florida Singing
Some Florida lawmakers think it's finally time to jump into the 21st Century and get a new state song. The old state song, "Old Folks at Home," also known as "Swanee River," beloved by some and detested by others, is on its way out. We need a new ditty to take its place, but what exactly should it be?
When Stephen Foster composed "Old Folks," with its broad black dialect and affectionate reference to "darkies," slavery was still legal in the United States. The namesake of this column was fighting for his freedom in the courts, a battle he'd ultimately lose when Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney decreed that all blacks were merely property in the United States. It was 1851, and the country was at its nadir as Foster put pen to paper and plucked a Florida river's name from an almanac (changing "Suwannee" to "Swanee" to suit his melody). Why Florida politicians adopted it as the official state song in 1935 is still a mystery. It actually had nothing to do with Florida, although the song's subsequent popularity spurred tourists to come here to see the misnamed river. Perhaps embracing it was a declaration that Florida had no scruples when it came to separating Yankees from their money.
Tony Hill, a state senator, and Ed Homan, a state representative, are leading the charge to ditch "Old Folks." They had another decent idea when they joined with the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) to sponsor a contest, titled "Just Sing, Florida!," in which state musicians were encouraged to submit original compositions to replace Foster's. The problem, apparently, is that there were not a whole lot of talented folks who entered it.
Most of the entries were country or classical songs, according to a "Just Sing, Florida!" spokesperson. Of the 243 songs that were entered, just one was hip-hop. One more was reggaeton. Most were bunk.
How do I know?
I'm judging from the three finalists. These are purportedly the best three entries, and they're pure fuckery. You don't have to take my word for this; check 'em out yourself at justsingflorida.org.
So I've come up with a better list of candidates to help FMEA get us a good state song. Part of the problem with "Old Folks," besides the "darkies" reference and the bad dialect, is that Foster was from Pittsburgh and never even set foot in the Sunshine State. Part of the problem with the "Just Sing, Florida!" finalists seems to be that, despite being natives, they reflect the involvement of amateurs. Why not let some certified, Florida-born hitmakers in on this action?
At the risk of making too much sense, here are a few tried-and-true suggestions for the Basement State's new song:
"Me So Horny," 2 Live Crew
Can't you just picture Charlie Crist getting up and dancing to this if he's re-elected? Crist famously shunned "Old Folks" at his first inauguration, which helped get the new-state-song ball rolling last year. As our beloved gov seems sexually ambiguous, this could be a platform for him to poke fun at himself and his detractors. It also helps to describe a state whose citizens love to make the beast with two backs.
Florida women have nice culos. I'm talking about the kind of onions that look so roundedly good that they can bring tears to your eyes. Why not pay homage in song to some of those fine, tax-paying ladies? Pitbull can fill the bill just fine. Plus, the song is bilingual.
"Hustlin," Rick Ross
This is such a no-brainer. It should be South Florida's anthem, but it also fits the rest of a state that's full of immigrants, dealers, and white-collar crooks, all of whom grind hard every day in one way or another. "Hustlin" is a great song for every working man and woman — plus, imagine hearing "Everyday I'm hustling, eh, everyday I'm hustling" at your kid's next elementary school recital; no doubt the kids will have a stronger work ethic because of it.
"Beautiful Girls," Sean Kingston
Florida's full of beautiful girls. That's why Playboy and Maxim mack on coeds from Gainesville and Tallahassee. The Gold Coast is full of MILFs, GILFs, and cougars, and we still haven't touched on the models of South Beach. Part reggae, part doo-wop pop, "Beautiful Girls" would be the catchiest state song since Colorado got "Rocky Mountain High."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.