My Old Kentucky Home: State Song, Blues Song, and Identification with “Home”

I was born and raised in Kentucky. My first professional musical 'job' was in 1981 at the Stephen Foster Story in Bardstown, Kentucky. The state song of Kentucky is "My Old Kentucky Home" and I have always loved the song. 

Is it time to say "Good Night" to it?

I'm out of touch with how different groups view this song. It is understandable that some people find it offensive if they are so inclined to be. Any references to that painful part of American and Kentucky history will produce strong feelings from all points of view.

For myself I remember having to come to terms with the text of the sone once I became old enough to understand what it meant. I found it, and still find it interesting, that a state would adopt a song admitting to slavery at all. If anything this song sympathizes with the slaves about how they were treated. I don't see it as a disrespectful song in any way. The language used in the song is taken from the way slaves spoke in those years. It is a song about the pain and suffering of the slaves and also unites everyone in their love for a home in the state of Kentucky no matter what background or history you have. If anything, the song is a confession of this grave sin against humanity and a celebration of home values and how much parting hurts people no matter who you are.

The fact is that I believe that people in Kentucky identify with the song because of the mood it represents. The heat of the summer sun on the old rooftops of the old home place where you and your brothers and sisters, cousins, and young friends would play on the ground or the floor of the home.

They have rewritten the text of the first verse to change the reference of the song and I'm not sure it helps. We used "in summer the children at play" instead of "in summer the people are gay". I still think our version is better.

Everyone knows that at some point people have to leave home and it is hardest for the mothers when their children leave home to pursue their own lives. I know it was for my mother. I believe Stephen Foster meant the song to be a source of shared emotions for people that is a common sentiment no matter who you are or what your circumstances were growing up.

However, I can understand if some would like to not have to remember nor think about the history of those times and move on with a new song that everyone can rally around. I think that will not be an easy task. I'm not completely sure it would be the right thing to do. In a way, the song is a "Mahnmal" or a "symbolic reminder of past transgressions against humanity." It is an admission of guilt as well as a memory of good times within a home during times that were hard.

If we have nothing else, we have each other, and as long as we have that we will be okay.

So, I am not proposing or rejecting getting a new state song, but rather am exploring the subject. I need more information on the topic.  For my own feelings about it, I love the song for all of its imperfections because Kentucky has a lot to be proud of and some things to be ashamed of, but all of it combines to make us who we are as humans.