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What Is the State Song of Ohio?

By Angela Farrer
Updated: May 17, 2024

The state song of Ohio is "Beautiful Ohio," which was originally created out of an instrumental waltz that a composer named Robert Keiser wrote in 1918. A lyric writer named Ballard MacDonald wrote the words, and the two collaborated on the first version of the song during the 1920s. This song soon became a favorite of native Ohioans during the following decades for its portrayal of the state in a positive light. Despite its popularity, the song was not granted official status as the state song of Ohio until 1969 due to debate among state officials and some residents about the direct relevance of some of the lyrics.

Ballard MacDonald's lyrics originally created imagery of a pair of lovers in a small boat drifting along the Ohio River, which led some Ohioans to question this choice for an official state song. Some believed that it did not accurately reflect the hard-working and no-nonsense spirit of the state's residents. Despite these misgivings, the song remained popular among many people for its use of words such as "beautiful" and "majestic" to describe the landscape of Ohio. In the years following the first version's official adoption, various suggestions began to arise for new words that would include more holistic depictions of the state's thriving farmland and factories.

The state song of Ohio is a relatively recent addition to the state's set of official state symbols. The song has also been subject to lyric revisions, with a new chorus rewritten and adopted in 1989. A lawyer named Wilbert McBride created a new set of song lyrics that he believed better described the environment of Ohio as a thriving, industrious state. Many long-term state residents agreed that the revised words were an improvement over the romanticized imagery of the Ohio River contained in Ballard MacDonald's original lyrics. Although Ohio's governor initially objected, this new rendition of the state song of Ohio received enough legislative votes to become written into law that year.

Modern Ohio residents often associate their state song with the instrumental brass version of "Beautiful Ohio" that is frequently played at major sporting events. "Beautiful Ohio" is the theme song for the Ohio State University marching band. Many locals are less familiar with the lyrics than with the instrumental score as a result.

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