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America the Beautiful (Oh, beautiful for spacious skies)

Last week I was invited to my grand-kids’ elementary school for their annual, Veterans’ Day assembly. When the whole school stood and sang this song, it brought tears to my eyes, especially when they sang the third verse:

Oh, beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

When I returned from my military service, I was greeted with rotten tomatoes and curses, and it was fifteen years before anyone ever thanked me for risking my life for my country.  These kids served me breakfast, plied me with questions, and treated me like a hero. Thank you so much, American Preparatory Academy!

I thought this would be a hard song to arrange for the guitar, but it turns out to be one of the easiest. There are only five chords (two are very easy), and while there are three barre chords, they are all the same barred-E chord shape.  They are played exactly the same, just at different frets.  So this is really only a three-chord song.

There are a few slides, including one whole-chord slide, and a few pull-offs. But there are no difficult techniques or hard chord changes, as long as you can do the barre chords.  If you have not yet learned barre chords, this is the perfect song for learning them!  Only one new chord shape to learn, and you get three chords for the “price” of one.  (Actually, you get more than three, as the barred-E chord shape is commonly used to play F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B, and C, plus other chords even higher up the fretboard, if you have an electric guitar.)

I left out the counting numbers.  They are more confusing than helpful in this song, and besides, everybody already knows it.  If for some reason you don’t know how it goes, you can find dozens of versions recorded on the Internet.  I had thought to write a bit about the song’s origins, but the Wikipedia article found HERE says it all. This song is in the public domain.

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