The Stars and Stripes Forever

Our National March

The Stars and Stripes Forever

It is arguably the most famous march in the world and it's certainly one of the best!  It is recognized by the U.S. government as the official march of the United States (U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 304).  It has original lyrics by Sousa and some other words you may have learned as a child that are definitely NOT by Sousa ("Be Kind To Your Web-Footed Friends").  With crashing cymbals, bombastic brass and chirping piccolos, "The Stars and Stripes Forever!" gets millions of people on their feet, clapping and cheering every year.

Listen to The Stars and Stripes Forever!

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The Original 1897 Recording

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Performed by Sousa's Band, Berliner Gramophone
MIDI, YouTube video and additional info can be found on the Stars And Stripes Forever page in our database.

The Story Behind The Music

In late 1896, Sousa and his wife took a much-deserved vacation to Europe.  While there, Sousa received word that the manager of the Sousa Band, David Blakely, had died suddenly.  The band was scheduled to begin another cross-country tour soon, and Sousa knew he must return to America at once to take over the band's business affairs.  Sousa tells the rest of the story in his autobiography, Marching Along: Recollections of Men, Women and Music:

Sheet music cover Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career.  As the vessel (the Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York.  Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain.  Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody.  I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed.

The march was an immediate success - Sousa's Band played it at almost every concert until his death over 35 years later.  Sousa even set words to it:

The Stars and Stripes Forever! (lyrics by John Philip Sousa)

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom's shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with might endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Be Kind To Your Web-Footed Friends (attributed to Fred Allen)

Be kind to your web-footed friends.
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live all alone in the swamp,
Where the weather is cold and damp.
Well, you may think that this is the end.
Yes, it is, but to prove that you are wrong,
We're going to sing it once again,
Oh, yes we will, but it will be just a bit louder!

Be kind to your web-footed friends.
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live at the bottom of the swamp,
Where the weather is cold and damp.
You may think that this is the end.
Well, it is ## you are right!
So, just remember:
Be kind to your web-footed friends!
Be ever kind, yes, oh, so kind to all the duckies!

More Information

Author; David Lovrien Categories: Articles

About the Author

David Lovrien

David Lovrien

Sousa site creator David Lovrien is a software professional and musician living in Plano, Texas.

Comments (22)

  • ashley


    15 October 2012 at 08:42 |
    i like that i can here the instrumental part but i think it would also be cool if i could here it with the words
  • jdog


    09 March 2013 at 14:46 |
    this song is a piece of crap listen to the red hot chili peppers instead or guns n roses
    • David Lovrien

      David Lovrien

      09 March 2013 at 14:52 |
      Thanks for the laugh jdog!
  • Jan Nace

    Jan Nace

    07 April 2013 at 21:42 |
    Hello David, I find your writings on John Sousa very interesting. My husband recently bought , what we think is a Bassoon, there is a very small envelope inside the case & states that it was owned by a Shirley C.Thompson who was a Bassonist with the John Phillipape Sousa World Famous Orchestra. it says Johns wife's name was Rose. Then it says Shirley died in the arms of Don Carlos who was the past president of what looks to be ...Sad 5. Do you by any chance know or have you ever heard of Shirley Thompson or Don Carlos being in his Orchestra?
  • Ed Rooney

    Ed Rooney

    03 July 2013 at 19:30 |
    The GREATEST American Song, especially if you know the lyrics!
  • Sharon McLean

    Sharon McLean

    05 July 2013 at 10:51 |
    I first heard this song 70 yrs ago on my grandparents cylinder phonograph player when I was a small child. The gramophone version brought memories flooding back to me and chills through my body. Thank you for including it in your webpage.
  • Lynne


    18 September 2013 at 08:15 |
    Anytime I've heard this played, the audience stands and claps. When did this tradition start?
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    12 November 2014 at 08:31 |
    Hi Dave, just found the tune of Stars 'n Stripes at Wikipedia and then your blog with the original sound. Was the first thing ever I took on my tape in the early 70ties. The second was the Yankee Doodle. My father brought them to me. He collected a lot military music from Prussia, Russia, France, the States and some more. So this was the first music I began to save on my tape. Well and in Germany (FRG) the melody of Star'#Stripe was the tune of a TV-ad for some polish "Der General"........
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  • Sally


    09 July 2015 at 13:04 |
    Hi David, what an awesome site! I have never heard before the original recording of "Stars & Stripes forever." I had no idea it even existed!! Thank you so much for posting it.

    I have been fixated on "Stars & Stripes forever" since Fourth of July last week. This is the most awesome song ever! I read about the structure of the piece -- for some reason, I had been under the impression that it contained about 15 different melodies. No, but three can seem like a lot more when you use variations! I just adore the piccolo part. And now when I hear the entire piece, I notice all those little things I didn't notice before.

    Thank you so much, David, for showcasing and shedding light on this truly American treasure. Cheers, and God bless! :)
  • Gordon Estabrook

    Gordon Estabrook

    20 July 2016 at 08:51 |
    Hi David. I do like your website and found it quite useful at times during Temple Band performances. The Temple Band is the First Town Band in America founded in 1799 and continues to this day as 100% volunteer. Like Sousa we play the Stars and Stripes Forever at the end of every concert. I often remind people it is our National March and even quote the congress that made it so. Being 100% volunteer I do not always have a good distribution of instruments and when I am without a piccolo the oh so famous part in the trio is missed. When this happens I mention to the crowd that on this web site is a recording by Sousa himself in 1897 that does not have the piccolo part and that at tonight's concert we will play the SSF in this authentic way. The crowd of course loves the notation and I can only assume that some find their way to your site to check it out. thank you so much. Gordon, Director Temple Band
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