This month’s free sheet music download is none other than “Hail to the Chief.” This song holds a special patriotic significance for U.S. citizens, as “Hail to the Chief” is played to usher in a new president to the Oval Office.
History of Hail to the Chief
Did you know that the original lyrics for “Hail to the Chief” are based on a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott written in 1810? (A narrative poem is a poem that tells a story, like a ballad or an epic poem.) The narrative poem that inspired the song “Hail to the Chief” was written in three sections by Sir Walter Scott, a poet from Edinburgh, about the conflict between King James the Fifth and a powerful Scottish clan named Douglas. If you’re interested in reading the poem, you can read Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott at The Literature Network.
Entitled “The Lady of the Lake,” this poem became so popular it influenced other musical works as well. Rossini wrote an opera dubbed “La Donna del Lago” (which is Italian for the phrase The Lady of the Lake) and a German translation of the poem was set to music by Franz Schubert. The third movement of Schubert’s work, “Ellens dritter Gesang,” was subsequently translated to Latin and became widely popular. You may recognize Ellens dritter Gesang‘s other name, the song is more commonly known as “Ave Maria.” Like “Hail to the Chief,” there have also been variations of lyrics set to Schubert’s music as well, but the original lyrics were set to Sir Walter Scott’s poem.
Written as a march, “Hail to the Chief” first incorporated lyrics from the narrative poem around 1812. The widely-popular lyrics were set to music by an English songwriter named James Sanderson for a London musical according to the History News Network. “Hail to the Chief” originally referred to a scottish chieftain, featured in the poem, which is why this song was originally known by another name — “Wreaths for the Chieftain.”
According to an article published by John Hopkins University about the history of Hail to the Chief, the first President to be ushered in by this song was Andrew Jackson.
Hail to the Chief was first associated with a Chief Executive on February 22, 1815, when it was played (under the title Wreaths for the Chieftain) to honor both the belated George Washington and the end of the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson was the first living president to be personally honored by Hail to the Chief, on January 9, 1829. The tune was among a number of pieces played for Martin Van Buren’s inauguration ceremony on March 4, 1837, but it was Julia Tyler, the wife of President John Tyler, who first requested that the tune be played specifically to announce the President’s arrival.–SOURCE: Hail to the Chief: A Musical Tour Excerpted from Lester S. Levy’s Lectures
The lyrics evolved to fit the Presidential march now played for the United States Presidential inaugurations. What are now considered “traditional” lyrics for “Hail to the Chief” are rarely sung, and our research didn’t turn up much information about these lyrics that are said to be written by Albert Gamse per Wikipedia.
Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!
Although the song “Hail to the Chief” wasn’t officially part of the musical tribute for a U.S. president until 1954, it has a long history that started across the Atlantic with a popular poem.
We invite you to download “Hail to the Chief” for this month’s free sheet music download of the month in a guitar tab or Guitar Guru format. The song is also available in piano sheet music as well.