Column: Come on! Feel the Sufjan!

By Eric Naing

Name the state song of Illinois right now. Anyone? I thought not. Aside from maybe “On Wisconsin,” state songs are uniformly antiquated and forgettable. But thanks to indie/folk rock wunderkind Sufjan Stevens, and his song “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!,” the land of Lincoln has a chance to have an official state song that is actually “hip” (and for those genuinely interested, the state song of Illinois is creatively titled “Illinois”).

The state of Illinois is facing a crisis. What once was a hotbed for national politics in the 1800s and 1960s, is now desperately clinging to the reflected glow of its junior senator. What once was home to world champions in basketball, football and baseball, now is host to numerous “maybe next year” teams (the White Sox World Series win that inspired a collective yawn from everyone outside Chicago doesn’t count). Even our voice in government has diminished. Illinois has failed to keep up with the growing populations of other states resulting in a loss of congressional districts and electoral votes.

People just don’t care about Illinois anymore. But why? Is it due to a complex mix of geopolitics and economics? Or it is maybe a result of changing social trends? Maybe, but I lay the blame squarely on the snooze fest that is our current state song.

Written by C.H. Chamberlain and composed by Archibald Johnston, “Illinois” became our state song in 1955 and has been inducing yawns ever since. Among the song’s highlights are references to our state’s “rivers gently flowing” and “prairies verdant growing,” a timely shout out to our brave troops fighting in the Civil War and 28 mentions of the name “Illinois.”

Surely this musical aberration is at least partially responsible for our state’s fall from grace. What we need is a state song that not only respects the history and values of Illinois, but also appeals to the iPod generation. Cue Sufjan Stevens’ “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” which is six minutes and 45 seconds of Illinois-flavored bliss.

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    Every generation a song appears which can be considered truly epic (The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Clapton’s “Layla,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.”). I truly believe that the epic song that defines this era will be “Illinoise!” The song, much like Illinois itself, is a mix of old and new. Time-tested horn and string instruments meet with the electric guitar and a jazzy beat to create a symphony that even Honest Abe would enjoy.

    Among this song’s non-sarcastic highlights are references to the Chicago World’s Fair and how it introduced the Ferris wheel and Cream of Wheat. It also gives respect to important Illinoisans not named Abraham Lincoln, such as architect Frank Lloyd Wright and poet Carl Sandburg.

    As a state song, “Illinoise!” would better inspire state pride, make the state more appealing to a younger generation and provide what Illinois needs most: indie rock cred (I’m sure Gov. Blagojevich is dying to capture that elusive hipster vote).

    In 2003, Utah replaced its old state song “Utah, We Love Thee” with the more modern “Utah, This is the Place.” If other states can do this, why can’t Illinois? Just think of how much cooler “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” would be compared to state songs like “All Hail to Massachusetts” or “Oh, Arkansas.” Illinois could even follow New Hampshire and designate honorary state song status to “Illinoise” alongside the original.

    I implore you, Illinois state government, make Sufjan Stevens’ “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” our new state song. This could potentially be the most important action taken in U.S. state government history since Idaho’s legislature passed a resolution honoring “Napoleon Dynamite.”

    So if any plucky, young Illinois congressmen or women are reading this, please draft a bill, or whatever you do, that would make “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” our new state song. And if that’s not possible, please consider the theme from “Ghostbusters” instead.

    Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. He thinks Carl Winslow from “Family Matters” should be mayor of Chicago. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at [email protected].