Music Notes|

The University of Texas’ Longhorn Band (from their website)

By Jim Vertuno, Associated Press | Losing football games is one thing at the University of Texas. A challenge to the hallowed school song is quite another. A controversy over “The Eyes of Texas” has lingered for weeks now at Texas, with some players refusing to sing it after games or even stand for it given its links to the racist minstrel shows of yesteryear. Just this week, the highly respected Longhorn Band reportedly has refused to play the song whose history at Texas dates to the early 1900s.

The administration insists the song, one of the school’s most treasured traditions, will stay even though it is unlikely that players or student musicians can be ordered to support it.

“Standing for ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is a statement of something – school spirit, loyalty, solidarity,” University of Texas law professor emeritus David Anderson said. “But deliberately not standing, or leaving the field, is a statement just as surely. It’s protected speech.”

Written in 1903 and sung to the tune the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” the song is an old standard in Longhorns country. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies and is a popular sing-along at weddings and even funerals

The song has been a sore subject for minority students for decades. The title is taken from a favored saying of a former school president who had mimicked remarks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The song was routinely performed by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows.

Amid the racial injustice protests that rocked the nation this year, Texas athletes were among the most prominent college sports figures to join demonstrations after the death of George Floyd. They first marched with coach Tom Herman from campus to the state Capitol, then led a group of students and athletes demanding the school drop “The Eyes of Texas.”

Letters to the school president, athletic director and board of regents poured in wanting to keep the song. Some urged thoughtful consideration. Others dismissed the demand from “agitators” and “whiners who just want to create trouble.”

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[Thank you to Alex Teitz, http://www.femmusic.com, for contributing this article.]

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