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

New Florida State Song?

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 At the end of 2007, it just seems straight-up racist and outdated -- check the lyrics, written in Mark Twain-style "dialect," here, along with references to "darkies" and plantations.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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