Racist overtones mean ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ set to lose status
USA: Hope you’ve enjoyed the mass drunken renditions of ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ at Preakness Stakes past. Because chances are you won’t be hearing it in the future.
Maryland’s controversial state song won’t be heard at the Pimlico Classic when it finally takes place on October 3, ending a tradition dating back to 1909.
Like Kentucky Derby anthem ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ – bugled rather than sung behind-closed-doors at Churchill Downs earlier this month – ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ carries problematic overtones in the modern era.
Especially, it hardly need be said, amid worldwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.
The poem from which the song’s lyrics are derived was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall “to spur Maryland to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy”, according to the Blood-Horse.
A quick trawl of the internet reveals a full-length version by Tennessee Ernie Ford (face superimposed on a Confederate flag) posted by someone called ‘Southern Gentleman’ on YouTube. “Northern scum” is one memorable epithet contained therein, while Abraham Lincoln is described as a “despot” – though, admittedly, not in the stanza they belt out at Pimlico.
Be that as it may, amid moves from Baltimore legislators to remove official status as Maryland’s state song, it has been ditched by the Maryland Jockey Club for 2020, while the G2 event formerly known as the Dixie Stakes, the state’s oldest stakes race, reverts to its original title as the Dinner Party Stakes. The first Dinner Party Stakes in 1870 was won by none other than Preakness himself.
Fortunately, there are no similar issues with the traditional pre-race singalong at the Belmont Stakes, which is a truncated version of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Theme from New York, New York’.