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Michigan's State Songs

Sung since the Civil War, "Michigan, My Michigan" has long been considered Michigan's unofficial state song. Another song, "My Michigan," has been all but forgotten except in the records of the Michigan Legislature. "My Michigan" was named "an" official song (not "the" official song) of the state in 1937. Learn more about each song here.

Michigan's Mystery State Song!

The Michigan Historical Center once thought that Michigan had no official state song. But we recently discovered that Michigan's House of Representatives and Senate passed Concurrent Resolution No. 17 in 1937. It reads, "'My Michigan' is an [emphasis added] official song of the State of Michigan."

Giles Kavanagh wrote the words and H. O'Reilly Clint wrote the music. H. O'Reilly Clint Co., Music Publishers, Detroit, copyrighted it in 1933. The Rare Book Room of the Library of Michigan holds the sheet music, one version for voice and piano and another for voice, saxophones, trumpets, trombone, guitar, drums, piano, violin and double bass. The sheet music is also in the collection of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. The song is still under copyright protection.

Below is the resolution honoring "My Michigan." Read a brief history [PDF] of how the state's House of Representatives and Senate passed this resolution. (Note the care that the Senate took not to name it as "the" official song of Michigan.)

A concurrent resolution designating and adopting "My Michigan," as composed and written by Giles Kavanagh and H. O'Reilly Clint, as an official song of the State of Michigan.

     Whereas, The words and music in the song "My Michigan," as composed and written by Giles Kavanagh and H. O'Reilly Clint, express the hopes, ambitions and pride of the people of the State of Michigan; and
     Whereas, On June 18, 1936, Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald designated "My Michigan," as an official song of the State of Michigan, in true recognition of the fine thoughts conveyed in the words and music of this lovely memorial to the State of Michigan; now therefore be it
     Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the 1937 Michigan Legislature designates and adopts "My Michigan," as an official song of the State of Michigan.

Further resources about the history of "My Michigan":

  • Fuller, George N. (Editor), Michigan: A Centennial History of the State and Its People (Vol. V: Michigan Biography). Chicago: The Lewis publishing company, 1939. (pages 47-49, biography of Giles Kavanagh)
  • Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Michigan, 1937, Regular Session. Volume I. Lansing, MI: Franklin DeKleine Company. (see the history [PDF] of the resolution)
  • "Justice John W. Fitzgerald Portrait Presentation," M. R. Vol. 447. Presentation of the Portrait of the Honorable John W, Fitzgerald, November 10, 1994. (page 5, reference to "My Michigan" song)
  • McNamara, Daniel I. (Editor). The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1952. (pages 88-89, H. O'Reilly Clint)

Michigan, My Michigan

A more popular song called "Michigan, My Michigan" is considered by many to be Michigan's unofficial state song. Winifred Lee Brent of Detroit wrote the lyrics for the first version of "Michigan, My Michigan" in 1862 to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." She was inspired to write the song after the Civil War's battle of Fredericksburg. Later, Brent married Dr. Henry Lyster, who had been a surgeon in the Union army.

In 1886, Major James W. Long of Grand Rapids wrote new lyrics for "Michigan, My Michigan" for Michigan's semi-centennial celebration. While his words hail Michigan's attributes ("lake-bound shore," "thy pines," "jewels glitter in thy mines" and "sails of commerce"), they do not forget the Civil War veterans with references that include "on trust Thy noble sons have bit the dust" and "Thy diadem-thy hero sons."

Douglas Malloch composed new lyrics-deemed more suitable for peacetime-for a convention of the Michigan State Federation of Woman's Clubs in Muskegon in 1902. After the convention, the member clubs sang it at club meetings and at state conventions. Schools used in musical and patriotic programs.

Read the lyrics of the 1862, 1886 and 1902 versions of "Michigan, My Michigan." [PDF, 2 pages]

Further resources about the history of "Michigan, My Michigan":

  • History of Michigan Federation of Women's Clubs. Michigan History Magazine, Vol. XII (January, 1928), pp. 70-75.
  • Historical Notes and Comment. Michigan History Magazine, Vol. IV, Nos. 2-3 (1920), pp. 394-395.
  • Michigan, My Michigan. Historical Collections of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, XXXV (1907), pp. 155-169.
  • Michigan, My Michigan. Michigan History Magazine, II (1918), pp. 688-689.
  • Michigan Song. Michigan History Magazine, XIII (1929), pp. 650-652.

Contact the Michigan Historical Center.

Updated 09/12/2012

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