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Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle is a pre-United States Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, unorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War. It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket. The Yankee Doodle lyrics are attributed to Docter Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon.

Feeling superior to the colonials, the British made the song popular among themselves. The Boston Journal of the Times wrote about a British band declaring "that Yankee Doodle song was the Capital Piece of their band music."

The earliest known version of the lyrics comes from 1775:

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;
But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wou'dn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.
(Note that the sheet music which accompanies these lyrics reads, "The Words to be Sung thru the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.")

During the Revolutionary War, the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them. A newspaper account after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported, "Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now,-- 'D--n them,' returned he, 'they made us dance it till we were tired.' -- Since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."

The British responded with another set of lyrics following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

The seventeen of June, at Break of Day,
The Rebels they supriz'd us,
With their strong Works, which they'd thrown up,
To burn the Town and drive us.

A full version of the first few stanzas of the song, as it is known today, goes:
Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy

There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion,
A-giving orders to his men,
I guess there was a million.

Yankee Doodle &c.

And then the feathers on his hat,
They looked so 'tarnal fine, sir,
I wanted pockily to get
To give to my Jemima.

Yankee Doodle &c.

And then we saw a swamping gun,
Larde as a log of maple;
Upon a deuc-ed little cart,
A load for father's cattle.

Yankee Doodle &c.

And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder;
It makes a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.

Yankee Doodle &c.

During the American Civil War, Southerners added some new lines of their own:

Yankee Doodle had a mind
To whip the Southern traitors,
Because they did not choose to live
On codfish and potatoes.

Yankee Doodle, fa, so la,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
And so to keep his courage up,
He took a drink of brandy.

Many other variations and parodies have since arisen, including the one taught to schoolchildren today:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

The word macaroni meant "dandy", or "fop", or "dude" at the time.

And the following anonymous junior-high school campus parody:

Yankee Doodle went to London
Riding in a rocket
It flew so high, he lost an eye
And corked out his eye socket.

The tune has become synonymous with the United States. The Voice of America begins all broadcasts and ends all broadcasts with the interval signal of "Yankee Doodle".

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