"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known American song, whose exact origin is unknown. The tune was borrowed from a 16th-century Netherlands harvest song. The term Yankee seems to be derived from the common name Jan, and in effect means Johnny. There are many versions of the text, and the standard version is believed to have been written in the time of the Seven Years' War, and to have originally expressed the contempt felt by British military officers for the disheveled, disorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served, and this was expressed in many of its original lyrics.
Later on, in the tense times which led to the outbreak of the American Revolution and during that war itself, the "Yankees" themselves took up the song and composed different lyrics expressing American patriotism and disparagement of the British. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.
Among the general public the most well-known words are the first verse and refrain (which, ironically, express the original British contempt for the American colonials):
- Yankee Doodle went to town,
- A-riding on a pony;
- He stuck a feather in his cap,
- And called it macaroni.
"Yankee Doodle" in The Two GeorgesEdit
In the tense 1760s, when secession of the American colonies from British rule seemed a very real possibility, rebelliously-minded colonists took up "Yankee Doodle", originally composed in mockery of themselves. After George Washington's historical meeting with King George III firmly established the reformed British rule in North America with the consent of the mainstream population in the colonies, "Yankee Doodle" was retained by the diehard malcontents who regarded Washington's act as a betrayal and continued to hold out for an independent North America.
The tune retained this significance over the next two centuries, and in the later 20th Century was especially identified with the underground Sons of Liberty, who had the habit of leaving shellac platters that played the tune at the scene of their various violent attacks. Police officers, such as Thomas Bushell of the RAMs, thoroughly detested this "jaunty, hateful tune". In general, though in many of its versions "Yankee Doodle"'s lyrics had nothing subversive in themselves, the song and its tune gained a very thorough subversive connotation and would hardly ever be sung or performed by anybody in the North American Union except outspoken radicals.