New Florida State Song?

Stephen C. Foster, composer of Florida's current state song

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There's been talk of getting rid of Florida's state song for years. "The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)" by Stephen C. Foster was officially adopted in 1935 -- less enlightened times, shall we say. At the end of 2007, it just seems straight-up racist and outdated -- check the lyrics, written in Mark Twain-style "dialect," here, along with references to "darkies" and plantations.

(You can also listen to a recording of the song from the 1955 Florida Folk Festival here, scroll down to the end.)

Not a good look for a state that's already been the butt of countless political jokes in recent years.

So state legislators Sen. Tony Hill (District 1) and Rep. Ed Homan (Dsitrict 60), decided to sponsor a contest for a new proposed song, called "Just Sing Florida," managed by the Florida Music Educators' Association. (BTW, thank goodness they've banded together in a state notorious for arts education budget cuts!)

The finalists have been whittled down to:

-Florida, My Home – Music by Carl Ashley (Boynton Beach), Lyrics by Betsy Dixon (Boynton Beach)

-My Florida Home – Music and Lyrics by Christopher Marshall (Orlando)

-Florida (Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky) – Music and Lyrics by Jan Hinton (Pompano Beach)

They can all be heard at www.justsingflorida.org, where you can cast your vote for a winner. Polls close at midnight on January 2008. That month, Sen. Hill and Rep. Homan will present a bill in Florida legislature to replace Foster's old tune with the contest winner. So click away, and we'll see what happens. -- Arielle Castillo

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