Hail to the Redskins is the fight song for the Washington Redskins. It was written sometime between 1937 and 1938 and was performed for the first time on August 17, 1938. The music composed by the Redskins team band leader, Barnee Breeskin, and the lyrics were written by Corinne Griffith, the wife of Redskins founder and owner George Preston Marshall.
In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins from Boston to Washington. With this move and the introduction of his team to the nation's capital, Marshall commissioned a 110 member band to provide the new fans with the "pomp and circumstance" and "pageantry" of a public victory parade. Marshall stated that he wanted to his team and their games to emulate the spectacle of the Roman Gladiators at the Coliseum. He also wanted to incorporate elements of the college football experience into the pro game. He oufitted the band with $25,000 worth of uniforms and instruments and asked the band leader, Barnee Breeskin, to compose a fight song worthy of such a team of gladiators and warriors.
The original lyrics were written to reflect the native American warrior imagery of the team as the Redskins. The lyrics were later reworked to be less offensive to contemporary sensibilities. Nonetheless, the fight song is one of the oldest football fight songs in all of American professional football.
Hail to the Redskins is the second oldest fight song for a professional American football team; the oldest fight song is "Go! You Packers! Go!", composed in 1931. During the 1938 season the Redskins played their new fight song for fans in attendance at the games as they played the Philadelphia Eagles, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cleveland Rams, the New York Giants, the Detroit Lions, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Chicago Bears football teams.
Changes to the lyricsEdit
References to DixieEdit
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (October 2010)|
The song's original first stanza ended with the line "Fight for old Dixie". The original version of the song also closed to the open of the well known southern folk song, "Dixie". This phrase has since been replaced with "Fight for ol' D.C.!"
Dixie refers to the American South and the Dixie reference may seem confusing to those unfamiliar with the history of the NFL. Washington, D.C. is very close to the Mason-Dixon line (which by itself is not an indicator of geographic or cultural identity), far from the center of the American South, but was considered to be a part of the South until the 20th Century. Furthermore, in the late 1930s when Hail to the Redskins came into use, the Redskins were the favored team of the South, as at the time they were the southernmost team in the league.
Dallas Cowboys controversyEdit
When the NFL began considering expansion to Texas, Marshall strongly opposed the move, as he had enjoyed a monopoly in the South for three decades (apart from the one-year appearance of the Dallas Texans in 1952). Potential owner Clint Murchison, who was trying to bring the NFL to Dallas, bought the rights to "Hail to the Redskins" from a disgruntled Breeskin and threatened to prevent Marshall from playing it at games. Marshall agreed to back Murchison's bid, Murchison gave him back the rights to the song, and the Dallas Cowboys were born.
Native American stereotypesEdit
The original lyrics also perpetuated stereotypes of Native Americans. The second stanza of the original version exhorted the team to "scalp" their opponents, and invoked more stereotypes with lines like "we want heap more!" Those phrases have since been replaced with standard football play references like "run or pass or score, we want a lot more".
Despite these changes, some Native American groups still take offense to the lyrics in their present form. First, the song references the team name, Redskins. There has been considerable debate over whether the term "redskin" is a racial slur against Native Americans. Second, the line "braves on the warpath" is another alleged stereotype, similar to the removed "scalping" reference. Both phrases also refer back to the team's origin in Boston, as the team was named after the Boston Braves.
The updated version is seen as less offensive. It remains one of the most popular and well-known fight songs in the NFL. For example, on November 30, 1972 The Seldom Scene released on Rebel Records a version of the song lasting 2:02 which originally appeared as a 45rpm record but that is now readily available as an MP3 download from mainstream outlets such as amazon.com.
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