The aptly titled “Illinois” was composed by a Civil war vet to promote Chicago’s bid for the 1893 World’s Fair. Certain we’ve earned an upgrade.

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Image: Illinois Digital Archives

I have lived in the great state the Illinois for 28 years, and only once have I heard anyone sing our state song, the unimaginatively title “Illinois.” It was at Lincoln College, in 1995. C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb was receiving one honorary degree, and former Gov. Jim Thompson was in attendance. The campus choir opened the regimen with an anthem so reassuring it made Andy Williams sound favor Motörhead.

“By your rivers tenderness flowing, Illinois, IllinoisO’er her prairies verdant growing, Illinois, IllinoisComes one echo ~ above the breezeRustling with the irpari trees, and also its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois”

Thompson listened through a blissful look at on his face, as the choir sang that the organic wonders ofthe state he'd governed for 14 years.

But walk anyone else feeling the same way about “Illinois”? go anyone else also know the words, which go on to explain Chicago as “thy good commercial tree” upon “the inland sea"?

Like most official state song (“Here We have Idaho,” “Hail! southern Dakota”), “Illinois” bring away its melody from the sheet music era, and its prosody from the Fireside Poets —John Greenleaf Whittier, James Whitcomb Riley —who were family names in the late 19th Century. The tune was composed in the beforehand 1890s through Civil war veteran Charles Chamberlin, to encourage Chicago’s bid because that the 1893 World’s Fair. That was set to the song of “Baby Mine” —not the tune from Dumbo, yet this 1870 romantic melody.Chamberlain’s friend, Col. O.B. Knight, sang “Illinois” here and in Washington, D.C.

In the end, Chicago won the World’s Fair. Yet it'sunclear whether Chamberlin’s summary of the state’s tenderness rivers and verdant prairies had anything todo v that.

The song'susefulness can have finished there, yet in 1925, State Sen. Florence Fifer Bohrer (Bloomington) presented a bill to name it the state song. Illinois didn’t have actually a state song, so all the various other senators said, "sure."The melody is still played by the Marching Illini throughout pregame performances prior to University the Illinois football games. U that I’s Glee Club likewise sings it.

At this point, though, Illinois have the right to do far better than “Illinois.” plenty of various other states have replaced or augmented their official songs through something more modern-day and singable. In 2014, West Virginia included “Take Me Home, country Roads.” Georgians song “Georgia On mine Mind,” when Oklahomans song “Oklahoma!,” indigenous the musical. Tennessee, no surprisingly because that the ar where rock and also roll and also country music to be born, has ten state songs, including “Rocky Top,” “Tennessee Waltz” and “Smoky hill Rain.”

What around Illinois, though? Which songs evoke our state and also those? right here are a couple of contenders because that a brand-new state song.

“City of new Orleans,” by Steve Goodman

In 1971, Goodman take it the train to visit his in-laws in Mattoon, and also was for this reason charmed through the see he composed a song around it. Goodman even rhymed “odyssey” through “Kankakee.” “City of brand-new Orleans” showed up on Goodman’s debut album and also was a large hit for both Arlo Guthrie and also Willie Nelson, making it the most renowned song influenced by Illinois. “Good morning, America, just how are you?” would certainly sound great being sung through a university choir.

“Illinois Blues,” by Skip James

This is an ode come the great Migration, with Mississippi bluesman James informing the folks ago home, “I never had actually a an excellent time till I acquired to Illinois.” Drawbacks: the melody is a dirge, the text rhyme “boys” through “Illinois,” and a choir can never give birth James’s haunting vocals.

“Illinois,” by Dan Fogelberg

Fogelberg, a Peoria native, was trying to do it huge on the southerly California yacht absent scene as soon as he composed this homesick ode come his house state. “Flat top top the prairies/ Soil and stone/ stretching forever/ taking me home,” is evocative of main Illinois. Fogelberg’s ideal song around Illinois, though, is “Same Old Lang Syne,” about running into his high college girlfriend in ~ a Peoria convenience store throughout a visit home for Christmas.

“Come On! feel the Illinoise!,” by Sufjan Stevens

Stevens when promised to record an album about every U.S. State. He started with Michigan, but his Fifty claims Project ended after Illinois. I guess he establish he wasn’t going to find an ext inspiration almost everywhere else. The album is chock full of Illinoisana, including songs about Highland, Jacksonville, Decatur, and also “The guy of Metropolis Steals our Hearts,” influenced by the Superman statue.

“The Illinois Enema Bandit,” by candid Zappa

Michael Kenyon to be a college of Illinois graduate and also an auditor because that the Illinois room of Revenue. The was also a serial armed robber who frequently administered enemas to his victims. His crimes inspiredthis oddity, i beg your pardon was out there also for Zappa. Climate again, most likely not the male we want as a prize of our state.

“Illinois,” through Brett Eldredge.

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If we’re searching for a song that expresses the very same sentiments as the existing state song, yet in a musical style easily accessible to modern listeners, this is a winner. Eldredge grew up in Paris, Illinois, prior to moving come Nashville to pursue a nation music career. “I come native the heart of the Heartland/ Where photo shows, wherein the corn grows/ In rows and rows of summer greens,” the sings, prior to rising to a chorus that “And five the heart will wander/ past that wild blue yonder/ once I get lost in the noise choose a whisper i hear the voice the the boy/ five from Illinois.” It might be a little bit corny, both literally and figuratively, however it speaks both come those who love life in Illinois, and those that regret leaving.