Florida Singing a New Tune?

"Old Folks at Home," also known as "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River," may not be Florida's state song much longer.

The governor and several lawmakers are anxious to change it. While there are mixed feelings from folks in our area on whether that shouldn't be the state song anymore, all agree that "Way Down upon the Suwannee River" is a strong part of Florida's history.

Johnny Dame, a Florida native, said, "Most people, when they hear way down upon the Suwannee River, they have a very endearing remembrance of the river itself and good times at the river."

The Suwannee River comes to life through the Stephen Foster song "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River,” but the centuries-old song has Florida Gov. Charlie Crist making plans to stop using it as Florida's state song.

A spokesperson for Crist says it's because of racial implications of the lyrics.

"I think changing the lyrics is okay. I believe that music should be constructed with an open weave so that you can change it to fit the times. There's so much great qualities to the song that I'd hate to see it just tossed off to the side.”

The chorus says, "All de world am sad and dreary, ebry where I roam, oh! Darkeys how my heart grows weary, far from de old folds at home."

A Suwannee County grandmother doesn't have a problem with keeping the song.

Georgia Mae Tompkins said, "I know a little bit about slavery, so I suggest that they keep it [the song] enforced because that's our roots. Even though we're not going that route as of now, we should never forget where we come from."

Some argue "Way Down upon the Suwannee River" isn't only a reflection of the past, but changing it could be detrimental to Florida's future.

James Cornett, President/CEO of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, said, "The state has recently invested millions of dollars into infrastructure, also marketing. The song by far is the strongest branding component of the area, helping to create rural tourism."

Deputy press secretary Kathy Torian says Sen. Tony Hill may propose a bill to adopt a new song. She says Gov. Crist is looking forward to signing it.

Christ had the Tallahassee Boys Choir sing "Oh, Florida" instead of "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River" at his inauguration, but his spokesperson says he and Sen. Hill are looking at several options.


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