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Residents React to State Song Compromise

After more than a year of trying to come up with a new state song, Florida lawmakers are singing the same old tune, but it won't be exactly the same.

They've decided to keep the famous and controversial song, but update some of the lyrics, and people around here say they're glad that the song referred to as the "Suwannee River" won't be taken away as the state song, but not all are too pleased with fine-tuning the lyrics.

The Suwannee River was immortalized by composer Stephen Foster in the song "Old Folks at Home," better known as "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River." Florida lawmakers are giving up on replacing it as the state song, but they are expected to change the lyrics.

Suwannee County resident Thomas Taylor said, "I think it'll be a giant leap forward. It wouldn't set us back. It could only take us forward." The search for a replacement song began more than a year ago when some lawmakers called "Old Folks at Home" offensive.

A part of the song says: "I'm still a-longin' for the old plantation, And for the old folks at home. All the world is sad and dreary, Ev'rywhere I roam. Oh, darkies, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home."

Suwannee County resident Willie Calloway, Sr. said, "It's racial to tell you the truth. Way Down Upon a Suwannee River is racially commentated remarks." A revised version says "still longing for my childhood's station," instead of plantation, and the word darkies is taken out of the chorus to say "Oh, dear ones."

Suwannee County resident D.J. Marshall said, "I don't feel like that should be changed. That's been like that since I was a kids and everybody I know grew up with that song. It needs to stay like it is."

Suwannee County resident Stacey Padgett said, "That leaves it for our kids today. They're not going to have that kind of history like we had. So we're just going to have to teach them ourselves."

Historians say Stephen Foster has never even laid eyes on the Suwannee River for himself. Some local residents say the music and even the lyrics of the "Suwannee River" song do tell a story.

The Senate has filed an amendment that designated the new lyrics as the official song of the State of Florida.

House Bill 825 is on the Second Reading Calendar in the Senate. The song that won the State’s contest “Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky” would become the State’s Anthem, which is sponsored by Senator King SB 1558.


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