What difference if I hail from North or South, or from the East or West? My heart is filled with love for all of these!
"This Is My Country" was composed in 1940 by the popular songwriters Don Raye and Al Jacobs. Raye, who was born Donald MacRae Wilhoite, Jr. was born March 16, 1909, in Washington, D.C. and Jacobs was born on January 22, 1903, in San Francisco, California.
Wilhoite changed his name to Don Raye when he went into vaudeville. A talented dancer, Raye shifted his focus from hoofing to composing as he began to write songs for his routine. Raye's name became linked with an array of fellow songwriters and musicians, including Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin, who, like Raye collaborated with the alto saxophonist Jimmie Lunceford, leader of one of the swing era's finest orchestras.
Cahn and Chaplin brought the Andrews Sisters trio to fame with their English language version of the Yiddish song "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (Means That You're Grand)." Raye went on to write or co-write some of the Sisters' (Patty, Maxene and LaVerne's) biggest hits, which were "Well All Right!," "Rhumboogie," and "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" ("eight to the bar" being a double boogie woogie beat). The song that won Raye and collaborator Hughie Prince an Oscar nomination in 1941 was their, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
He was a famous trumpet man from old Chicago way
He had a boogie style that no one else could play
He was the top man at his craft
But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft
He's in the army now, a-blowin' reveille
He's the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B . . .
Toot toot toot
Toot toot he blows it eight to the bar
Al Jacobs started composing songs in San Francisco when he was 13 years old. He supported himself giving vocal, guitar and dance lessons as he developed into a successful and prolific song writer. His early songs included "I'm Just an Ordinary Human" from 1935 and "Please Believe Me" from 1936 (both written with Larry Yoell).
As regards "This Is My Country" Al Jacobs' daughter, Joann, recently wrote, "Dad ran into Don Raye who said he was in the process of writing a patriotic song and would he like to write the music. So the words came first for sure, and then my dad wrote the music. I believe the song was written in New York . . ." Jacobs and Raye wrote their song in 1940 and, as a result of a January 7, 1942, recording session for Decca Records, the group Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians popularized it. Over the years a number of other recordings of the tune were made, for example, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Pattie Labelle.
At the height of his career in 1941, Raye enlisted in the U.S. Army and after the war continued working on a wide variety of films for Universal Studies until his retirement in 1949. Jacob's later pop songs included the 1954 Hit Parade tunes "If I Give My Heart to You (written with Milton Gabler and Jimmie Crane) and "I Need You Now" (written with Jimmie Crane) and scores or tunes included in films such as The Wild Rebels, Crocodile Dundee and the Karate Kid. Tunes by these men were recorded by artists as diverse as Chuck Berry, Bing Crosby, Bette Midler, and the Rolling Stones.
The co-authors of "This Is My Country" passed away within a month of each other. Raye died in Encino, California on January 29, 1985. Al Jacobs passed away on February 13, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland. Their song "This is My Country" is played nightly during the finale of the Disneyland and Disney World fireworks spectacular.
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