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What Is the State Song of North Carolina?

North Carolina's state song, "The Old North State," is a melodic tribute to its rich history and natural beauty. Penned by William Gaston and set to music by Mrs. E. E. Randolph, it evokes a sense of pride among Tar Heels. Discover how this anthem captures the heart of North Carolina—what does it mean to you?
Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber

The state song of North Carolina is "The Old North State," adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1927. The song's title refers to North Carolina's nickname, "old north state," which is one of many state emblems. Both the title and the lyrics about enduring the "scorner" and "witling" depict the struggle North Carolina endured in territory boundary disputes and a series of economic setbacks during its formative years. While the words, written by William Gaston, remained the same, the music evolved over the years with multiple renditions in existence. In 1926, Raleigh resident Mrs. E. E. Randolph arranged the music, incorporating the standardized tune by which the state song of North Carolina is known today.

Judge William Gaston, a plantation owner and member of the state supreme court, was residing in the city of Raleigh during the 1835 judicial session. Several women in the household sang a song they had learned while attending a concert of Swiss bell ringers. Judge Gaston, enchanted with the tune, composed the verses to "The Old North State" to accompany the music. The song caught the ears of North Carolinians several years later when when a choir of young ladies sang it during a presidential rally for William Henry Harrison. The lyrics to the state song of North Carolina display patriotic pride and a hint of the difficulty the state experienced after the wars with Great Britain and a severe decrease in population and prestige.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

William Gaston, from whom is named the city of Gastonia and Gaston County, took pride in the state song of North Carolina. His song includes words of defending the state, despite setbacks and scorners, and sings of its great liberty and hospitality to sons and strangers alike. The lyrics also lend personal perspective from the writer as a supreme court judge, with Gaston's proclamations of North Carolina's "just rule" and "too true to herself to e'er to crouch to oppression." Unlike many other state songs that herald the natural resources and beauties of their states, "The Old North State" focuses on the graciousness and beauty of its people "where plenty and peace, love and joy smile before us."

In 1663, Charles II of England established a colony in the New World, named Carolina in honor of his father. By the early 1700s, dissent and rebellion over local politics caused the colony to fracture into two separate royal territories: North Carolina and South Carolina. North Carolina adopted the nickname "Old North State" to differentiate it from South Carolina. The early years were turbulent for the fledgling state. After the American War for Independence from Great Britain and with the expansion of the American west in the early 1800s, North Carolina endured a dwindling population and reputation as an impoverished state with little opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the official state song of North Carolina?

The official state song of North Carolina is "The Old North State." It was adopted as the state song in 1927, reflecting the state's pride and history. The lyrics were written by Judge William Gaston and set to music by Mrs. E. E. Randolph. The song praises the natural beauty and the steadfast character of North Carolina, often invoking a sense of nostalgia and state pride among its residents.

When was "The Old North State" adopted as North Carolina's state song?

"The Old North State" was officially adopted as the state song of North Carolina on May 20, 1927. This adoption came after a long-standing tradition of the song being associated with the state, as it was already popular and well-loved by North Carolinians for its representation of the state's values and heritage.

Who wrote the lyrics to "The Old North State," and what inspired them?

The lyrics to "The Old North State" were written by Judge William Gaston in 1835. He was inspired by his deep love and admiration for the state of North Carolina. The song's lyrics reflect the state's natural beauty, the virtues of its people, and the writer's personal connection to the state. Gaston's words have since become a symbol of North Carolina's identity and pride.

Can you describe the musical style of "The Old North State"?

"The Old North State" is characterized by its traditional folk melody, which is reflective of the music style prevalent in the southern United States during the 19th century. The tune is simple yet memorable, designed to be easily sung by people of all ages. Its musical style contributes to the song's enduring popularity and its ability to evoke a sense of state pride and community.

Is "The Old North State" often performed at state events in North Carolina?

Yes, "The Old North State" is commonly performed at state events in North Carolina, including government ceremonies, public celebrations, and school functions. As the official state song, it holds a place of honor and is often used to signify the importance of an event or to foster a sense of unity and state pride among attendees.

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