Cohan vs. Cohan

In 1904, George M. Cohan wrote the patriotic ” Yankee Doodle Boy.” In 1906 he followed up with ” You’re a Grand Old Flag.” For July 4th, I decided to review the eight-line choruses of each, comparing and contrasting.

Line 1

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag, A good introduction for both topics. I like the stand alone description for Mr. Doodle, but “high flying flag” wins out here. It gives us a little bit more to savior with the spicy words grand, high, flying, and old. I don’t know if I’d want to hang out with a “Doodle Dandy” on July 4th.

Line 2

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

And forever in peace may you wave.

We get it, you’re a Yankee Doodle! I do like the “do or die”. A hard line tough America. Cue Chevy commercial. The flag knocks the Yankee out of the park with “forever in peace,” a nice hope and goal of our country. We’re still on track with the “forever” part, at least. Adding wave is perfect. All we know about Yankee Doodle is that he’s a do or die dandy. The flag on the other hand is old, wavy, and high-flying.

Line 3

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,

You’re the emblem of the land I love.

I really enjoy the rhyming of of with love. Emblem I’m a little less a fan of, though I can’t think of a better synonym. Symbol? Nah. I also like Cohan’s use of real live instead of real life. These two lines are very patriotic, but I think Yankee Doodle Boy wins this round, as its lyric is simply more imaginative.

Line 4

Born on the Fourth of July.

The home of the free and the brave.

Dang, more greatness from the songs. For rhyming, I do like wave and brave, die and July not as much. For the substance of the lyric itself, Yankee Doodle Boy gives us a decent backstory for the character (Depending on who you believe, Cohan was born on July 3 or 4). I’ll give it to the Yankee for the more personal and memorable line.

Line 5

I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,

Ev’ry heart beats true ‘neath the Red, White and Blue, Now we are introduced to secondary characters, the soul-mate and the American public. I like them both. I want to be around my wife and my nation on July 4th, and I ain’t gonna pick one over the other. I can be a fan of clippin’ words to fit songs, but ‘neath is an iffy choice. Would it have been that hard to say beneath? Otherwise, if the tie goes to the more imaginative, “Grand Old Flag” wins out here.

Line 6

She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.

Where there’s never a boast or brag. Joy is a nice word, I like it’s simplicity. As for never boasting or bragging, the lyrics have already described Americans as brave, free, true-hearted people. So the added compliments ring hollow. The Yankee wins round six.

Line 7

Yankee Doodle came to London, just to ride the ponies;

But should auld acquaintance be forgot, George M. Cohan might have been the first sampler. “Yankee Doodle Boy” samples the first line of “Yankee Doodle”, while “It’s a Grand Old Flag” samples the first line of “Auld Lang Syne”. Dandy loses points for using London instead of town. It made sense for the play, but not for the song on its own. Otherwise, it’s a perfect sample. “Grand Old Flag” earns points for sampling another sing-along tune, but “Auld Lang Syne” was a Scottish folk song! We’re talking America here, why is Cohan referencing London and Scotland? Yankee wins round 7.

Line 8

I am the Yankee Doodle Boy.

Keep your eye on the grand old flag. “Grand Old Flag” wins this one. This is the sixth use of “Yankee Doodle” and I’ve had enough! I’d rather stare longingly at the grand old flag, who’s majesty we’ve come to regard over the first seven lines, than hear Yankee Doodle remind us he’s a Yankee Doodle. Last round goes to the flag.

Line for line, they tie for quality. “Yankee Doodle Boy” gets extra points for arriving first and being autobiographical, while “It’s a Grand Old Flag” is a better stand-alone song, as well as a more patriotic. Either way, USA USA et cetera.