In these troubled times, I can think of no song that better captures the greatness and spirit of America than “America the Beautiful,” our signature patriotic song.
Sadly, I sometimes forget the men and women who died for my freedom. It’s often hard for me to grasp their bravery and conviction to the freedom I sometimes take for granted.
When I first listened to legendary bluesman Ray Charles’ stunning interpretation of “America,” I heard him launch his recording with a dark third stanza which reads:
“O beautiful for heroes proved/ In liberating strife/ Who more than self their country loved/ And mercy more than life./ America! America!/ May God thy gold refine/ Till all success be nobleness/ And every gain divine.”
Moving to a prayer that asks that those sacrifices not be in vain, Ray Charles implied that Americans must earn the very familiar verse that follows:
“Oh beautiful for spacious skies/ For amber waves of grain/ For purple mountain majesties/ Above the fruited plain.”
“O beautiful” has captured my heart, moving me to tears and a real sense of patriotic feeling, conveying an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for our nation’s extraordinary physical beauty and abundance,
When he sang, “God done shed His grace on thee,” Ray Charles was transforming an anthem to a hymn. Ray Charles’ rendition remains the least boastful of patriotic songs, and even so, his version teaches us all a new humility.
And that’s beautiful!
Ocean Park, Washington