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'The Liberty Song': Song of the Day for April 19

Nobody knows if it was a British soldier or a colonist who fired the first shot to start the American Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson immortalized the first shot in a poem more than 50 years later calling the volley “the shot heard around the world."

The colonies were ticked off long before 1775, tired of how the Mother Country was taxing them. The shots at Lexington just lit the match.

Colonists knew the day before, that the British were coming to Concord to confiscate a cache of weapons. (remember Paul Revere)? A ragtag army surprised the British early the next morning in Lexington. The British won the skirmish and moved on to Concord, where they met more resistance. They retreated and returned to Boston. The war had begun. It lasted until 1783.

The shot heard around the world is celebrated on Patriot's Day in Massachusetts and Maine on the third Monday in April. The holiday now is remembered more for the Boston Marathon than the colonists who stood up to the British in Lexington.

John Dickinson, who was a member of the Continental Congress, wrote the Song of the Day, “The Liberty Song,” in 1768. He was a farmer from Pennsylvania who became famous for “Letters from a Farmer,” 12 essays rallying colonists to come together to fight British rule.

He wrote an updated version of the song in 1770. In one of the verses, he wrote what became a famous motto: “united we stand, divided we fall.” Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln used the same words.

The lyrics might have been written by a colonist, but the tune was stolen from an old English drinking song, “Heart of Oak,” the anthem of the British Navy.

Song of the Day is created by Sheldon Zoldan, and produced by Pam James for WGCU. To receive the Song of the Day in your inbox every day, email shzoldan@comcast.net with the subject line ADD ME TO SOTD.