Good morning, Gov. Wes Moore.

I hope you enjoy your Saturday at the Preakness Stakes. I don’t know much about a day at the races except that it is a good opportunity to dress up a bit, drink and eat with friends in an unusual setting and lose a little money trying to figure out exactly what an exacta is. Oh, and there are horses.

There will come a moment while you’re in the box at Pimlico just before the race when everyone pauses for a unifying, uplifting musical moment that celebrates what Maryland is all about. And then … nothing.

We dumped “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song with good reason in 2021. It was a racist ode written by a traitor and irredeemably linked with Christmas rather than our state. It was long overdue for the dustbin.

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Do we require a new state song? Well, no. But do we need one? Hell, yes.

Maryland and New Jersey are the only states without one, and I don’t care about New Jersey. Heck, Delaware has “Our Delaware.” Virginia has three songs to sing its praises! We’re better than this.

A good song can be a unifying thing. Ever stand for the national anthem at an Orioles game?

“O!!! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave...”

While it’s probably not tops on your to-do list, governor, now is a good time to get started on picking a new song for Maryland.

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Here’s how you can do it. Let’s have a statewide competition.

Divide the state into four roughly equal parts based on population and call for original entries from within those groupings that celebrate Maryland. A panel of judges for each of the regionals could select a dozen for live performances, and then choose a first, second and third place. The 12 regional winners would appear in a state final before a live audience, streamed live and carried on Maryland Public Television.

People watching and listening in person and remotely could pick their favorites through electronic voting. Ask people to sign up with some indication of residence — so people in New Jersey don’t tip the vote to “Maryland, meh, Maryland.” The night would end with the song receiving the most votes declared the new state song.

The winning act would receive a cash prize and then get to perform the song at the Preakness and in outdoor concerts around the state for the next few months.

Three years later, do it again.

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Is it a harebrained scheme? You betcha.

Would the state song competition — let’s call it the “Great Maryland Song Contest!” — bring focus to the state’s performing arts community and give us all a common experience that builds on our shared sense of what it means to be a Marylander? That’s the best reason to do it.

Would it be fun? Absolutely.

Watch on YouTube

Look, I’m no singer. But I’ve talked to some about this and the general consensus is that more song is better for everyone.

There are certain styles of music that show up again and again in state songs. Some offer examples of what we should avoid.

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Songs with ties to minstrelsy — a 19th-century musical form based on white mimicry of Black speech — should be avoided. Would you be surprised to learn that Florida’s banjo-picking “Old Folks at Home” is the worst?

Others state songs are such awkward attempts at government-mandated speech that anyone singing them sounds like a high school student reading the principal’s reminders about adhering to the dress code over morning announcements.

Oh, our Delaware! Our beloved Delaware!

For the sun is shining over

Our beloved Delaware,

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Oh! Our Delaware! Our beloved Delaware!

Here’s the loyal son that pledges,

Faith to good old Delaware.

Has anyone asked President Joe Biden about this?

There have been attempts in various states to update state songs. Tennessee is home to the country music songwriting assembly line in Nashville, perhaps explaining why the state has 10 official state ditties including “Rocky Top” and “Tennessee Waltz.”

None of them compares to “Georgia on My Mind,” the 1930 standard forever owned by Ray Charles since 1960.

It is possible to actually get people to sing a state song. In my wife’s home state, lots of people sing a cleaned-up version of “My Old Kentucky Home” (like Florida’s, written by Stephen Foster) before high school football games and after family barbecues — not just at the running of the Kentucky Derby. Even if it’s not the state song, the crowd sings along with Frank Sinatra’s recording of “New York, New York” before the Belmont Stakes.

What, governor, might a good state song sound like?

It has to be something people can sing. Ed Sheeran writes a lot of songs that are possible to attempt. He was on TikTok the other day talking about the “magic four chords” that are all you need for a good Ed Sheeran song (no, not the one someone sued him over without success).

View post on TikTok

Nashville has its own structures for a country music song that keep an entire army of songwriters busy cranking out singable songs year after year.

On the question of content, a state song should be something that feels good to sing.

“I think when you’re writing a state song, you’re celebrating things about the state, the Chesapeake Bay, Ocean City and the mountains,” said Laura Price, a spokeswoman for Rams Head on Stage and the Annapolis Songwriters Festival. “A state song should make you happy.”

Plenty of people have already proposed new state songs. Some are good, and some are terrific.

Jefferson Holland, a longtime Annapolis singer-songwriter and now the editor of Chesapeake Bay Magazine, wrote “That’s My Maryland” nearly three years ago as a candidate for state song. You can see how it would work from the chorus.

Oh my Maryland, from the mountains to the sea

Susquehanna flowing down to meet the Chesapeake

Harbor in Annapolis with schooners running free

Oh Maryland, My Maryland, that’s Maryland to me.

The good thing about repeating the Maryland state song competition every three years is that different styles of music could rise to the top, and different elements of the state would get a chance to be celebrated. There are only so many words that rhyme with Chesapeake — beak, cheek, tweak you get the idea.

Who’s going to write these songs?

Price, who recently returned from the Rams Head Key West Songwriters Festival, said there were hundreds of singers in this year’s event. When the lineup is announced for the second Annapolis festival lineup next month, it will expand to another day to accommodate additional acts.

Gov. Moore. I don’t know if you’ll read this.

I hope anyone who does will mention it before the race on Saturday. Just in case, all readers who agree that we need a state song should send a message urging Moore to get behind the idea from a link on his website.

If you’re on board with the idea, governor, count on me to be singing your song (so to speak).

rick.hutzell@thebaltimorebanner.com