Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Rhode Island is Famous for You, an Illustrated Song

Posted on: August 26, 2011

I have wanted to learn “Rhode Island is Famous for You” for the longest time.  Working on the book of states for “Fifty Nifty States,” I realized that many of the same pages would work great for “Rhode Island is Famous for You” and that way kids could get more exposure to and learn more about state names, learn one of the great songs of the Great American Songbook, and I’d get to learn the song in the process.  Perfect Fun.

I will be so, so excited to share this with children and their caregivers in classroom and libraries.

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Rhode Island is Famous for You
Words by Howard Dietz
Music by Arthur Schwartz
Book Assembled by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus

This item is for classroom, home, or library use only.

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Rhode Island is Famous for You
Words Howard Dietz
Music by Arthur Schwartz

Every state in the USA
Has something it can boast of,
A product that the state
Produces the most of.
Rhode Island is little, but, oh my,
They have a product
Anyone would buy…

Copper comes from Arizona
Peaches come from Georgia
And lobsters come from Maine
The wheat fields are the sweet fields of Nebraska
And Kansas gets bonanzas from the grain

Old whiskey comes from old Kentucky
Ain’t the country lucky
New Jersey gives us glue
And you, you come from Rhode Island
And little old Rhode Island is famous for you

Cotton comes from Lou-siana
Gophers from Montana
And spuds from Idaho
They plow land in the cow land of Missour-a
Where most beef meant for roast beef seems to grow

Grand canyons come from Colorad-a
Gold comes from Nevada
[Marriages do, too]
And you, you come from Rhode Island
Little old Rhode Island is famous for you

Pencils come from Pennsylvania
Vest from Vest Virginia
and Tents from Tent-esee
They know mink where they grow mink in Wyo-mink
A camp chair in New Hamp-chair, that’s for me

And minnows come Minnesota
Coats come from Dakota
But why should you be blue?
For you, you come from Rhode Island
Don’t let them ride Rhode Island
It’s famous for you.

Possible tag at end:
We’ll sing about Rhode Island
And dance it, you enhance it,
More than Providence, Newport, Narragansett
Rhode Island is famous for you.

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A video of the great Blossom Dearie singing “Rhode Island is Famous for You,” (lyrics included with video)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig2daWp-Pls

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“Rhode Island is Famous for You,” was written for the musical revue, “Inside U.S.A.” a musical revue that opened on Broadway in April of 1948.

More info on “Inside U.S.A.” here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_U.S.A.

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The musical “Inside USA” was based on a book by John Gunther, with the same name:

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Info about the show and Al Hirschfeld’s caricature for the show, here:
http://www.alhirschfeldfoundation.org/news/musical-monday-inside-usa

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Addendum 1/25/2013
JUST WHAT DOES EACH STATE DO BEST

One of the top-top Sing Books favorites is Rhode Island is Famous for You.  The kids love singing about what products come from what states, and especially the funny plays on words in the last verse, like when “Pencils come from Pennsylvania.”

Not long ago, a child in one of the classes spoke up and said, “I’m not so sure those are actually the top grossing products of those states.”  I thought that was precocious and hilarious of the child to say that, but the comment also made me wonder about what are the actual top products of the states.

Recently, and quite by accident, I ran across a few things to help me answer that question:

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JUST WHAT DOES YOUR STATE DO BEST- best-of-states
JUST WHAT DOES YOUR STATE DO BEST POSTER
Click here to view the poster:
http://1bog.org/blog/whats-your-state-good-at/

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tumblr_lfnpakEGBp1qd0p40o1_r1_1280 smaller
UNITED STATES OF AWESOME (WHAT DOES YOUR STATE DO WELL) POSTER

Click here to view the poster:

http://static.ragamuffinsoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/tumblr_lfnpakEGBp1qd0p40o1_r1_1280.jpg

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Addendum 2/2/2013
CANYONS THAT ARE GRAND IN COLORADO

After singing Rhode Island is Famous for You and Grandma’s Feather Bed at Maggie’s Cabaret Valentine Concert  last night, a fellow came up to me and said that the song  Rhode Island is Famous for You made him and his wife mad because of the lyric “Grand Canyons come from Colorado.”   Anyone with half a brain should know that the Grand Canyon is not in Colorado.  I was a bit tired then, of course, the Maggie’s event was my third performance of the day (plus all that parenting activity), so I didn’t have all my wits about me to discuss the subject or defend a lyric written by Howard Dietz in 1948.  But, to be honest, even if I DID have the wits to defend it, I didn’t have a good stock of info and I would not have made a good case.  The man’s comment revealed a big hole in my understanding of the lyrics.

That said, I’ve done some research (which, admittedly, I should have done long ago) and have come to the conclusion that actually, the lyrics is good and correct…or at least not wrong.

The Grand Canyon (which winds its way through the states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah) was cut over the course of millions of years by the river we now call the Colorado River.  That alone, in my mind, justifies the lyric.  The Grand Canyon did come “from [the] Colorado” [River] (poetic licence taken since lyrics are most often written in poetry) because it was made by the Colorado River.

Also, there ARE canyons in Colorado.  Though the Grand Canyon itself is not in Colorado, the canyons of Colorado are genuinely grand.  Here are a few examples:

black canyon of gunnison co
Black Canyon in Colorado.  If that’s not grand, I don’t know what is…

ruby canyon colorado
Ruby Canyon in Colorado…looks grand to me.

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Article here offers info about the Grand Canyon’s path, cut by the Colorado River, through Arizona, Nevada and Utah:
http://traveltips.usatoday.com/states-grand-canyon-touch-63422.html

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I feel better now.  The lyric is good.  And it is a wonderful, wonderful song.  And the children love this song.

I’m always a little surprised by how much kids love the “Rhode Island” song.  The song comes from the Great American Songbook tradition and isn’t at all intended for children.  But they love it nonetheless.  Rhode Island is Famous for You is solidly in the top 10 most requested Sing Books songs and the kids generally love all the hundreds of songs we sing together.  Rhode Island is Famous for You is extra special.  It is fun, funny and educational (there’s my answer!).

And, the song (and most songs can offer this gift) is a catalyst for discussion.  The man I got to speak to last night came to talk to me because I sang this song and then gave me a little push to learn something new.  Thank you to that man.  I’m not sure if he liked my performance or not, but the song brought us together and started a conversation.  To me, that’s what it’s all about.

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Excellent, and much appreciated, comment to this blog from the fellow I mentioned above:
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/a-hole-in-my-research-revealed-for-rhode-island-is-famous-for-you/#comment-10347
In the comment, he offers a picture of his favorite canyon in Colorado (even if he continues to “think Howard Dietz missed the target on that lyric,” which is perfectly fine and good, as my dad would say, “That’s what makes a market, some people buy, some people sell,”
glenwood canyon colorado
The magnificent Glenwood Canyon in Colorado
http://pcdn.500px.net/8261690/e28814ff1ca81ecac5264ef77d1fbe5c1aed7e76/4.jpg

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Addendum 2/3/2013
DICTION DICTION DICTION

I’ve been combing over the lyrics of the song  Rhode Island is Famous for You after an interesting conversation following a performance at Maggie’s Cabaret the other night.  Someone confronted me about the veracity of the lyric “Grand Canyons come from Colorado…”

I did some study on the lyric to justify it as it is (or to “agree to disagree” with it, knowing if it is incorrect and thereby relying on “the suspension of disbelief” to make it singable) and found that, though the Grand Canyon itself  is not in Colorado, the Grand Canyon (residing as it does in the states of  Arizona, Nevada and Utah) was created by the grinding waters of the Colorado River and that there are canyons in the state of Colorado which are indeed grand, therefore the lyric is good.

Then I thought about the plural:  Canyons.  The sheet music clearly prints “Canyons.”  It is not “The Grand Canyon” it is “Grand Canyons.”  That should have been my tip-off right there.  I’d immediately gone to study The Grand Canyon and then wondered about the canyons of Colorado  without going directly to the lyric as printed in the music.  Though I ended up in the right place, the first order of business should have been the printed music.

That gets me to a subject regarding the performance of the song: DICTION!  I do THINK of the lyric as plural and, at least in my head, sing “Canyons.”  I must have failed to make that “s” heard (or understood with my clarity of thought on the subject) since that “s” alone would have, or at least could have, cleared the question.

What I’m grateful for now, was the conversation alone.  The conversation was a good one (even if my understanding and my diction at the performance were not as good as they could have been) and now I fully understand the whole business.  I have a clear understanding (and visual images to illustrate the movie in my head) of that lyric and facts to back it up.  I also have gone back and looked at a finer point of the printed music…the plural “Canyons.”  That little “s” points the way to understand what’s going on here…not just one Grand Canyon, but any one of the many canyons that are grand in Colorado.

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Addendum 2/3/2013
RHODE ISLAND CONFESSION

The great performer and American Songbook aficionado Michael Feinstein would give me the maloccio for this, but I’m not adverse to tampering a little with lyrics…but only in very specific circumstances.  It’s one thing to sing a wrong lyric because one doesn’t know what the lyric actually is.   This is a singer’s sin which deserves being called-out, confessed, corrected, and redeemed.  But if the singer is changing a lyric on purpose and for a good substantiated reason, then I can live with it…especially when I’m the one changing the lyric.

I’ve done this a time or two when I desperately wanted to sing a song for a particular reason, but had to change a word or two in order to make the song fit my needs.  One of these instances is in the song  Rhode Island is Famous for You.

In the second verse, the actual lyric is, “Gold comes from Nevada/Divorces also do.”  I have changed the lyrics to, “Gold comes from Nevada/And marriages do, too..”

I wanted to change the lyrics because I determined to sing this wonderful song for children and I didn’t really want to mention the subject of divorce in Kindergarten classes.  Also, a full year before my husband and I were married in a church before friends and family, we eloped, a year from our first date, in Las Vegas, Nevada as we just happened to be there on a trip and Las Vegas provides so many wonderful opportunities for getting married in its little chapels (and at the Marriage Bureau where Charlie and I said our I-dos).  So, Nevada IS a place where marriages come from.  Also, since gold comes so readily from Nevada and gold went into our wedding rings, I feel that’s one more thumbs up for the change.  Divorces may very well come from Nevada, but marriages do, too!

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Addendum March 2013
KID’S IDEAS REGARDING OTHER SILLY THINGS STATES CAN BE FAMOUS FOR

Kid’s LOVE the song Rhode Island is Famous for You.  Children especially plug into the fun of the last 2 verses of the song which play with the sound of the states’ names and relate them in funny ways to objects the state names sound like:

Pencils come from Pennsylvania
Vest from Vest Virginia
and Tents from Tent-esee
They know mink where they grow mink in Wyo-mink
A camp chair in New Hamp-chair, that’s for me

And minnows come Minnesota
Coats come from Dakota
But why should you be blue?
For you, you come from Rhode Island
Don’t let them ride Rhode Island
It’s famous for you.

I’ve been delighted that lately children have been sharing with me their ideas for other silly things that these states can be famous for.  I would be remiss not to document them.  I can’t always collect the child’s name who shouts out the idea or shares it with me, when when possible, I will also note the first name of the child who submitted the idea.  As these ideas come in, I will register them on the Rhode Island is Famous for You blog page and we can begin singing verses that the children make up themselves.

Here is what I’ve collected so far:

  • Hampsters come from New Hampster (Patrick R.)
  • A new jersey (as in a new shirt) from New Jersey (Matthew)
  • Soda comes from Minnea-soda
  • Saws come from Arkan-saw
  • Candy comes from Can-sas
  • Cans come from Can-sas

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My Song Craft Worksheet is part of my performance preparation process,


 Emily’s Song Craft Worksheet

Because the first section of the Song Craft Worksheet involves background research on the song, I’ll share the answers with you so you can know about the song, too.  The more about the song you know (both concrete facts and less tangible artistic choices), the more “authority,” and heart and soul you can put into the singing and sharing of the song with others.  If you are interested in improving your artistic abilities for singing songs in any capacity, just simply filling out the Song Craft Worksheet is a great place to start!

1 Q: Who wrote the words?
1 A:  Howard Dietz

2Q: Who wrote the music?
2A: Arthur Schwartz

3Q: When was the song written?
3A: 1948

4Q: At what point in the lyricists’ and composer’s career was the song written?
4A: Looks like mid-career for both of ’em

5Q: What is the song from?
5A: The Broadway musical “Inside U.S.A.”

6Q: If from a show, what character sang it?
6A: Jack Haley (The Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz)

7Q: If from a show, from what situation does the song arise? Why does the character sing the song? What function does the song/character play in the story?
7A:  The musical is a series of sketches, so the song does not seem to advance the plot or play a particular function for a character.

8Q: What other contextual elements of the song are significant?
8A: It matters to me that the song touts the specialties of many states and that it gives me the opportunity to express appreciation for the people singing with me when we get to pretend that we are all from Rhode Island and I get to say Rhode Island is great because they are so great and they come from Rhode Island so Rhode Island is therefore great…

9Q: Was the song written for a particular singer? Why?
9A:  Could be Jack Haley, but I like to think it was written for me to sing to kids…:-)

10Q: If not from a show, why did the songwriter write the song?
10A: NA

11Q: What do you feel the lyricist is trying to say?
11A: The singer feels a great affection for the person to whom the singer is singing

12Q: Does the song tell a story or just express feelings or ideas?
12A:  This song expresses feelings and ideas (and facts…which may or may not be true)

13Q: Who else has recorded this song:
13A: Many WONDERFUL WONDERFUL artists have recorded this song:  Blossom Dearie, Nancy Lamott, Mandy Patinkin, Russ Lorinson, Michael Feinstein (and many others)

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Addendum, 1/31/2015

Children are frequently smitten with the song, Rhode Island is Famous for You.  Occasionally children will come up with ideas for products from other states not currently mentioned in the song.  This week, though, in a couple of classes, children came up to me with many ideas!  I told the kids that if they submitted their ideas to me in writing (though I’ll write the ideas down for Kindergarteners!), I would begin making new pages with the kid-written lyrics.  There’ll be some subjectivity on my part, choosing the ones to find pictures for and print.  But I surely give many kudos to every kid with chutzpah and creativity enough to come up with and idea and turn it in!

For the full post of the ideas submitted by kids, click here:
NEW VERSES FOR RHODE ISLAND IS FAMOUS FOR YOU
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/new-verses-for-rhode-island-is-famous-for-you/

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Related Articles

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FIFTY NIFTY STATES, A SINGABLE PICTURE BOOK

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/fifty-nifty-states-a-singable-picture-book/

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EDUCATIONAL CONTENT

A list of SPBs with fun and sneakily educational content.  The kids won’t even know they’re learning!
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/singable-picture-books-with-sneaky-educational-content/

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GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK

Singable Picture Books of the Great American Songbook and Michael Feinstein’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/american-songbook-singable-picture-books-and-michael-feinsteins-foundation-for-the-preservation-of-the-great-american-songbook/

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FOURTH OF JULY AND OTHER HOLIDAYS CELEBRATING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND HER CITIZENS AND HISTORY
A list of Patriotic Singable Picture Books
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/a-patriotic-list-of-singable-books-for-july-4th/

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UNITED STATES STATE CAPITALS SONG, A SINGABLE PICTURE BOOK
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/usa-state-capitals-song/

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A HOLE IN MY RESEARCH REVEALED FOR RHODE ISLAND IS FAMOUS FOR YOU
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/a-hole-in-my-research-revealed-for-rhode-island-is-famous-for-you/

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DICTION DICTION DICTION
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/diction-diction-diction-and-another-thought-for-rhode-island/

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GEOGRAPHY SONGS IN SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/geography-songs-in-singable-picture-books/

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NEW VERSES FOR RHODE ISLAND IS FAMOUS FOR YOU

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/new-verses-for-rhode-island-is-famous-for-you/

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THEY’VE GOT HOGS IN INDIANA, a hilarious song by Jim Thorne, might be a nice pairing with RHODE ISLAND IS FAMOUS FOR YOU:
https://www.reverbnation.com/jimthorne

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