Poor Jimmy Dodd.
There's no one around today to defend the late-and-great chief Mouseketeer while his 30-year-old anthem to the District of Columbia, "Washington," is being trashed by District Building revisionists.
Jimmy's entry in a 1951 competition to compose an official song for the city beat out more than 3,500 other entries. Although the Hollywood actor who starred in the "Mickey Mouse Club" TV program probably couldn't tell Foggy Bottom from Chinatown, he nonetheless gleaned enough information about Washington from his local library to write this winning ditty:
Washington, the fairest city in the greatest land of all,
Named for one, our country's father
Who first answered freedom's call.
God bless the White House, the Capitol, too
And ever keep flying the red, white and blue.
All right. Maybe it was a little schmaltzy. But Jimmy meant well.
City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), perhaps trying to capitalize on growing local pride as we approach the 10th anniversary of home rule, is trying to drum up support for a new official song.
Jarvis has actually introduced legislation to designate "This is My Town," written by Mark A. Williams, as the city's new official song.
Jarvis gushes about the new song, saying, "It is a song which emphasizes civic pride and involvement . . . . It is a musical banner which will raise our spirit as we reach out for full home rule."
But hold on a moment. Granted, the song has a catchy tune, but what about the words? Do they express an unbridled self-confidence and upbeat feeling, as Jarvis suggests, or do they perhaps hint at a feeling of insecurity or questionable self-esteem by D.C. residents?
Consider the opening lines:
"Sometimes we're overshadowed
By the mounumental grounds
And people who come to visit
Forget that we're around
But from now on we're going
To raise our voices in harmony
And sing 'We're proud to live in D.C.' "
That's not exactly a button-poppin' clarion call.
But let's go on:
"Oh the tourist and the politicians
Come and go and that's fine by me
As long as they know -- This is my town
My home town!"
Yeah! Take that, Tip O'Neill. Eat your heart out, you visiting tourists. This is D.C. you're messing with.
Now, this discussion in no way is meant to be disrespectful to Williams' song. Williams is executive director of Freedom Through Choices, a program that helps youngsters who are under foster care. His song represents a noble effort to help boost local pride in a town that hasn't always had a lot to cheer about.
But if the City Council is serious about scrapping Jimmy Dodd's ode, perhaps the mayor should appoint another of his famous blue-ribbon committees to mount a search for the best composition. And maybe then we should put the committee's choice to a vote on the ballot next fall.
That seems a far more sensible approach then trying to legislate a new city song. Think about it for a minute. If Jarvis' bill picks up support, the council will have to hold hearings and eventually vote.
What committee would you refer her bill to? Libraries and Recreation? Judiciary? Public Works? Council Chairman David Clarke may have to come up with a new Committee on Musicology as part of his planned reorganization.
Even now, council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) has put out a press release to introduce a bill to establish a 15-member commission to involve the public in picking a new flag, song and logo.
But how would you deal with special-interest groups that would clamor to be mentioned in the song? Or, more importantly, what if Mayor Marion Barry decides to weigh in with a lyrical amendment or two that to cast an even more favorable light on his administration?
Right now, the proposed song reads, in part:
"But it should be very easy to see
That the whole world loves D.C.
So do I! So do I!"
What if the mayor lines up enough votes on the council to amend those lines to read something like this:
"But it should be very easy to see
The whole world loves Marion Barry
So do I! So do I!
So beware . . . .