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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with Day to Day. No matter what you did yesterday, chances are you heard this tune.

(Soundbite of tune "Hail to the Chief")

BRAND: How did "Hail to the Chief" become the official presidential theme song? This explainer from Slate's Andy Bowers originally aired in 2005.

Mr. ANDY BOWERS (Executive Editor, Slatev.com): The words "Hail to the Chief" first referred not to a president, but to a Scottish chieftain. They come from a romantic poem by Sir Walter Scott called "The Lady of the Lake" published in 1810. The poem was so popular it was quickly adapted into a London musical, which before long migrated across the Atlantic to the newly independent United States. The song, possibly adapted from an old Scottish tune, was written by English composer James Sanderson. In America, it was quickly fitted with new lyrics and a new name, "Wreaths for the Chieftain," and was first used to honor a U.S. president at an 1815 birthday celebration for the late George Washington.

The first time it was used for a living president came when the marine band performed it for John Quincy Adams at an 1828 groundbreaking ceremony for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. According to the Library of Congress, President John Tyler's wife, Julia Tyler, was the first to ask that the song be used to announce the commander in chief's arrival, but it was another first lady, Sarah Polk, wife of President James K. Polk, who requested that "Hail to the Chief" be played routinely for presidential entrances. According to historian William Seal, Sarah Polk was concerned that her husband, quote, "was not an impressive figure, so some announcement was necessary to avoid the embarrassment of his entering a crowded room unnoticed."

Finally in 1954, the Department of Defense made "Hail to the Chief" the official musical tribute for presidential events. And in case you're wondering, there are official lyrics to the song, although you rarely hear them. They go like this. "Hail to the chief, we have chosen for the nation. Hail to the chief, we salute him one and all. Hail to the chief, as we pledge cooperation in proud fulfillment of a great noble call."

(Soundbite of "Hail to the Chief")

Unidentified Singers: Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation, Hail to the Chief, we salute him, one and all...

BRAND: That explainer from Andy Bowers. He's executive editor of slatev.com

(Soundbite of "Hail to the Chief")

Unidentified Singers: In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

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