“Dixie” by Daniel Decatur Emmett (1859)

Dixie“, also known as “Dixie’s Land“, “I Wish I Was in Dixie“, and other titles, is a song about the Southern United States first made in 1859. It is one of the most distinctively Southern musical products of the 19th century. It was not a folk song at its creation, but it has since entered the American folk vernacular. The song likely cemented the word “Dixie” in the American vocabulary as a nickname for the Southern U.S.

Most sources credit Ohio-born Daniel Decatur Emmett with the song’s composition, although other people have claimed credit, even during Emmett’s lifetime. Compounding the problem are Emmett’s own confused accounts of its writing and his tardiness in registering its copyright.

“Dixie” originated in the minstrel shows of the 1850s and quickly became popular throughout the United States. During the American Civil War, it was adopted as a de facto national anthem of the Confederacy, along with “God Save the South”. New versions appeared at this time that more explicitly tied the song to the events of the Civil War.

The song was a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln (himself born in Kentucky); he had it played at some of his political rallies and at the announcement of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Early recordings of the song include band versions by Issler’s Orchestra (c. 1895), Gilmore’s Band (1896) and the Edison Grand Concert Band (1896) and a vocal version by George J. Gaskin (1896).

First verses:

I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times they are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land where I was born,
Early on one frosty mornin,
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

Then I wish I was in Dixie, hooray! hooray!
In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie.

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