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"Home on the Range" is a classic western folk song sometimes called the "unofficial anthem" of the American West. The lyrics were originally written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley of Smith County, Kansas, in a poem entitled "My Western Home" in 1872. In 1947, it became the state song of the U.S. state of Kansas. In 2010, members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 western songs of all time.
In 1871, Higley moved from Indiana to Smith County, Kansas, under the Homestead Act. He lived in a small cabin near West Beaver Creek. He was so inspired by his new bucolic surroundings that he decided to create a poem in praise of the prairie. Thus, the lyrics to "Home on the Range" were originally published as a poem published in the Smith County Pioneer in 1872 under the title "My Western Home".
The music was later added by Daniel E. Kelley (1808-1905), a carpenter and friend of Higley. Higley's original words are similar to those of the modern version of the song, but not identical; the original did not contain the words "on the range". The song was eventually adopted by ranchers, cowboys, and other western settlers and spread across the United States in various forms. In 1925, the song was arranged as sheet music by Texas composer David W. Guion (1892-1981), who occasionally was credited as the composer. The song has since gone by a number of names, the most common being "Home on the Range" and "Western Home". It was officially adopted as the state song of Kansas on June 30, 1947, and is commonly regarded as the unofficial anthem of the American West.
The most popular version of the song was the version recorded by Bing Crosby on September 27, 1933, with Lennie Hayton and his orchestra for Brunswick Records which appeared in the various charts of the day. This turned a little-known saddle song into a most renowned western hymn. The origin of "Home on the Range" was obscure and widely debated at the time. It was published in 1910 in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John Lomax, who said he learned it from a black saloonkeeper in Texas. In 1925 a sheet-music arrangement found some popularity, and in 1927 Vernon Dalhart recorded it for Brunswick Records. California's radio cowboys picked it up from him, and in 1930 Hollywood's first crooning western star, Ken Maynard, recorded the song. However, it was not until the Crosby version that the song was seen as a national anthem for the west. Its popularity led to a plagiarism suit that created a search for its background.
Crosby's rendition is described by the writer Gary Giddins as transforming "a nostalgic lament into an ode to pioneering, a dream of shared history, a vaguely religious affirmation of fortitude in the face of peril". Giddins praises Crosby's subtle embellishments, which enhance the melody.
Bing Crosby recorded the song again in 1938 and 1939.Frank Sinatra also recorded the song on March 10, 1946; his version was released in Great Britain and was not available in the United States until 1993. Others who have recorded the song include Connie Francis, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Johnnie Ray, Slim Whitman, Steve Lawrence and Tori Amos. "Home on the Range" is often performed in programs and concerts of American patriotic music and is frequently used in plays and films. The song is also the theme opening music for the early Western Films starring Ray "Crash" Corrigan and his 2 co-stars under their movie roles as "The Three Mesqueteers". It is also featured in the 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth (sung by Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy), the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (sung by both Cary Grant and Myrna Loy), the 1967 off-Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (sung by the cast as a glee club rehearsal number), the 1980 film Where the Buffalo Roam (sung by Neil Young over the opening credits), the 2009 film The Messenger (sung by Willie Nelson over the closing credits), and the 1946 western film Colorado Serenade (sung by actor Roscoe Ates).
The song has naturally also made its way into screen shorts for children and adults, as in the 1954 Looney Tunes cartoon Claws for Alarm, where it is sung by Porky Pig. Likewise, Bugs Bunny sings the song in both The Fair-Haired Hare (1951) and Oily Hare (1952), the latter containing original lyrics specific to Texas oilmen.
In the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas, a version of this song titled "Home on the Wastes" appears, with the lyrics referring to a nice, radiation-free place to live. In the altered lyrics, the original animals mentioned in the older versions, such as buffalo, deer, antelope, and prairie dogs, are replaced with bighorners, mole rats, fire geckos, and radscorpions.
The song is also used in Wizards of Waverly Place, sung by the character Maxine in episode "Back to max", The Wild Kratts episode "Prairie Who" parodies the Song as "Home On The Prairie" which is sung by Chris, Martin, Aviva, Koki, And Jimmy.
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A recording of the song from Raiford Penitentiary, Florida, 1939.
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|Dr. Brewster Higley (1872, 1927, 1960)||William and Mary Goodwin (1904)||John A. Lomax (1910)|