Monday, March 1, 2010

Beautiful Nebraska

March 1st is the date Nebraska gained statehood in 1867. For the first hundred years, Nebraska didn't have an official state song. That was remedied by the state legislature in 1967. Quite a few songs were introduced as legislative bills, but after the legislature got the help of a group of Nebraska musicians to sort out the contenders, a song was chosen by the legislature's secret ballot: Beautiful Nebraska. Of the final three songs voted on by the legislature, Beautiful Nebraska garnered 31 votes to a total of 12 for the other two songs. Jim Fras of Lincoln wrote the music and the lyrics, with help from another Lincolnite, Guy Miller, with the lyrics. Nebraska's first lady, Mrs. Frank Morrison had been promoting the song for a couple of years, even singing it at the New York World's Fair in 1965.

Fras was born in 1925 in the Soviet Union where he lived for the first 18 years of his life. He emigrated to the United States in 1952 by way of West Germany, and landed in Lincoln through the sponsorship of the Lincoln Council of Churches. He fell in love with Nebraska, a feeling that comes across in his song. Inspiration for Beautiful Nebraska came from a drive out in the country, and he wrote the song in an hour in 1965 after spending nine years trying to write a song about his adopted state. Aside from composing Nebraska's state song, Jim Fras worked as a musical entertainer, and later as a piano tuner and rebuilder. He died in 2002.

"Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairie land..."