Ditching Oregon’s State Song

A bill proposed by Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego) or a resolution proposed by Rep. Sheri Schouten (D-Beaverton) calls for a rewrite of the Oregon State song, “Oregon, My Oregon,” which was officially adopted in 1927.

The bill, HB 2329, in its entirety, reads:

SECTION 1. (1) The Legislative Assembly finds that the current state song for the State of Oregon, “Oregon, My Oregon,” has lyrics that are entrenched in racism, that fail to recognize the suffering of Native people who were forcibly removed from this state and that fail to recognize the pain and suffering of Black people who were subject to exclusion laws targeting Black people. (2) The Legislative Assembly declares that a successor state song to “Oregon, My Oregon” is needed and that the process for selecting the successor state song is to be inclusive to people of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities who call Oregon home.

SECTION 2. (1) As soon as is practicable after the effective date of this 2021 Act, the Secretary of State shall propose a public process by which a successor to the current state song, “Oregon, My Oregon” is to be developed. (2) The public process shall be designed to ensure broad participation from Oregonians of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities who call Oregon home, and to ensure access to resources to assess historical accuracy in any proposed song lyrics that make references to past historical events. (3) The secretary shall make the proposed public process available to the public for review and comment for a 90-day period, and may conduct hearings on the proposed public process. The secretary shall review and consider all testimony and comments received. The secretary shall finalize the public process within 45 days following the close of the public comment period. (4) The secretary shall report to the Legislative Assembly on the progress of the public process in developing a successor state song no later than September 15, 2022.

For those of you unaccustomed to reading legislative prose, let me summarize. The bill calls for the state to ditch “Oregon, My Oregon” and empower the Secretary of State to establish a process to select a new state song, a process that will include public participation.

Some thoughts:

“Oregon, My Oregon” is a terrible song. I doubt there are five Oregonians who could sing or whistle it. It is never played anywhere. It needs replacing.

Any new state song must meet the minimum American Bandstand standard of “the kids can dance to it.”

One can imagine the state appointing a diverse committee of musicians to either write a new song as a committee (then subject to Legislative or voter approval?) or commission a new song by a prominent Oregon musician or musicians and then hold some kind of online voting contest to choose the winner. Or how about a statewide contest where anyone who wants to, write a song, perform it, upload to Youtube and then the top five in “likes” come together for a live reality show hosted by an Oregon celebrity (are there any?) and Oregonians can vote via their phones or tablets. Now that would be the ultimate in democratic participation!

Another suggestion: Have the committee recommend “Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen version) and let’s get it over with and have lawmakers move on to other more pressing matters. At least with “Louie, Louie” every junior high and high school and college band in Oregon can play it at an assembly. I did that once with a student rock band at Newport High School and the place went nuts.