Our Iowa Heritage: Our Hawkeye Sing-Along.

On October 27, 1962, The Daily Iowan published a special Iowa Homecoming edition, and in it, staff writer Gary Spurgeon offered a brief overview of, what was then, the top four Hawkeye-spirit songs.

The Iowa Fight Song.

On Iowa.

Roll Along, Iowa.

Old Gold.

Today, three of those four tunes are still crowd favorites when Hawkeye Nation gathers in Kinnick Stadium or at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But, I dare say that too many fans simply clap along when these Hawkeye classics are played.

Why, you ask? Maybe this little video will help you better understand our problem…

You see, as a Hawkeye Marching Band (HMB) alum (1969-1972), I must quickly admit to you that while I do know, by heart, the words to our #1 hit song: Meredith Willson’s Iowa Fight Song – W.R. Law’s On Iowa is a bit tougher, and when it comes to John Wooden’s Roll Along, Iowa, I’m simply clueless.

So, in order to remedy this problem, I’m going to not only give you the lyrics to these songs, but also offer you a bit of the rich history behind them as well. Plus, I’m gonna give you a trip down memory lane as we look at some of the other SUI songs that are sadly now, nearly forgotten.

So, here we go. Clear your throat and sing ’em when you know ’em! We’ll go at this in chronological order, and, know that we will NOT be singing The Iowa Corn Song!

Wayne Neuzil sings the first verse of Old Gold – recorded in 1983.

Lyrics by John Carl Parish, when he was a senior in the College of Liberal Arts. I’ve written on this 1905 classic elsewhere on our website, but suffice here to say that this was SUI’s first school spirit-song, written in response to SUI President George MacLean’s challenge – offering $20 to the winner of the April 1905 song contest. Parish set his beautiful words to a popular 18th-century Irish Air known best as Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms. An interesting side-note here, John C. Parish went on to become SUI’s first Ph.D. graduate in Political Science. Click here to read more about Old Gold. (L-0088)

O, Iowa, calm and secure on thy hill
Looking down on the river below,
With a dignity born of the dominant will
Of the men that have lived long ago,
O, heir of the glory of pioneer days,
Let thy spirit be proud as of old,
For thou shalt find blessing and honor and praise
In the daughters and sons of Old Gold.

We shall sing and be glad with the days as they fly
In the time that we spend in thy halls,
And in sadness we’ll part when the days have gone by
And the path turns away from thy walls.
Till the waters no more in thy river shall run,
Till the stars in the heavens grow cold,
We shall sing of the glory and fame thou hast won
And the love that we bear for Old Gold.

(M-0120) Enjoy this version of Old Gold as recorded by The Old Gold Singers in the early 1960’s…

Wayne Neuzil sings Three Cheers for Iowa – recorded in 1983.

Lyrics and Music by Sadie Hess Ford. This song is part of a big collection of college spirit-songs entitled University of Iowa Songs (pictured above) published in 1921. This 120-page volume features numerous sorority and fraternity tunes from the day, and includes John C. Parish’s Old Gold plus at least six other SUI-themed songs such as A Pledge to Iowa, Iowa First and Iowa Best, and Iowa is the School for Me. Obviously none of these other tunes made it past the roaring 1920’s, and Three Cheers survived only because it was recorded by Wayne Neuzil in the 1980’s. Looking at some of the lyrics, you will understand why…

Let us give three hearty cheers for S.U.I.
Give them with a will and with a Hi, Hi, Hi.
To the Old Gold we ever true will be.
Let us cheer for Iowa, for dear old Iowa.
Set a mid a land with peace and plenty blest,
Famed and honored everywhere from east to west,
Proudly we will cry, Hurrah for S.U.I.
Three cheers for Iowa.

Iowa, Iowa.
Haw, haw, haw, Hi, Hi, Hi.
Rah, rah, rah, for S.U.I.
Three cheers for Iowa.

Far away from Iowa, years may be long,
Still within our hearts the love for her is strong;

We will always raise voices loud in praise,
And with one accord we’ll cheer for dear old Iowa.
And it matters not at all where we may roam,
We look back to Iowa, and call it home.
Gladly we will cry, We are from S.U.I.
From dear old Iowa.

Iowa, Iowa.
Haw, haw, haw, Hi, Hi, Hi.
Lustily give the cry,
Three cheers for Iowa, for dear old Iowa,

Iowa, Iowa.
Haw, haw, haw, Hi, Hi, Hi.
Rah, rah, rah, for S.U.I.
Three cheers for Iowa.

Here ya go – try singing along with the Hawkeye Marching Band…but good luck. Since most fans don’t sing the words anymore, the band now tends to take the song at a much faster tempo than originally written – thus we have the perpetual problem of “why sing, if I can’t put in all the words” vs. “they aren’t singing, so let’s get-r-done fast.” When performed at the speed it was originally intended (120 bpm), it all works wonderfully.

Lyrics and Music by W.R. Law, who was a graduate of the College of Law in 1904. On Iowa has become the Hawkeye’s longest-lasting spirit-song. For years now, as the HMB has used it for the downfield pre-game march, most Hawkeye fans simply clap along because, in truth, the words can be just a bit cumbersome, especially if the tune is played on the fast side.

My dad, George Boller, who attended SUI during the Nile Kinnick era, and was at every Iowa homecoming game from the time he was age 5 (1926) until his death in 1994 (except for the 4 WWII years he was in the service), knew the verses of On Iowa by heart and would always sing Law’s words loudly as the band played. His favorite part was the bridge which is, sadly, now completely forgotten. It originally had a short interplay between the band and the crowd, and in my dad’s day, it was known as the Who-wa-wa section. He would tell me when the whole stadium participated, the Who-Wa-Wa? was amazing! I’ve included that section here…

On Iowa proudly at the fore
On Iowa on for evermore
Ev’ry loyal son will give
A rousing toast to you
Ev’ry loyal daughter loves you true
On Iowa with your wealth untold
A heritage to us you did unfold
Love of family, love of friend
Love of country too
Makes us proud for what you stand
Our Dear Old Gold.

Bridge – the band plays the first line – followed by the crowd’s question…

Who-wa-wa?
Who-wa-wa?

The band then plays the next line – followed once again by the crowd response…

Iowa! Iowa!
Who-wa-wa? Who-wa-wa? I-O-W-A!

Fight, Iowa, never, never yield
Fight, Iowa, fight right down the field
Get in the game and watch the ball
Be a fighting man
Hit ‘er hard, give Iowa all you can.
Fight, Iowa, you’ll be sure to hold
We’re with you with the pep
And love of old.
Fight for family, Fight for friend
Fight for country too
But fight hard today and win
For Dear Old Gold.

Wayne Neuzil sings Iowa Fights – recorded in 1983.

Lyrics by J. Russell Stanton & Robert W. Cooper. Very little is known about the origins of this fight song, but we do know that the songwriting team of Stanton & Cooper wrote and copyrighted another popular song in 1924 called Memories of My Iowa Girl and, according to some information we found on-line, a musical group called The Hawkeye String Strummers introduced that popular tune around campus in the mid-20’s. What I love about this song, written obviously in the early 1920’s, is that it picks up on the ‘Who-wa-wa‘ chant found in the bridge of On Iowa, written just a few years earlier (1919). See notes on all that above (On Iowa).

There is a school that’s known as Iowa,
Out where the west begins,
In football, track, or baseball,
A team will fight to win.

It has a faith that knows no equal,
From the Golden Gate to Maine,
And the years may come, and years may go,
We’ll be loyal to her name.

Oh, we will fight, fight, fight for Iowa,
We will root for dear Old Gold,
There isn’t a school that can conquer us,
With a team so true and bold,

And, so the storm may be against us,
We will battle to the end,
With a who-wa-wa for Iowa,
Be the best school in the land.

And though the storm may be against us,
We will battle to the end,
With a who-wa-wa for Iowa,
Be the best school in the land.

Thanks to Iowa’s Music Man – sing along with the Hawkeye Marching Band…

Lyrics and Music by Meredith Willson. Iowa’s own Music Man, Meredith Willson, was born in Mason City in 1902, distinguishing himself as a writer of symphonic works and popular songs. His most famous work, The Music Man, premiered on Broadway in 1957, and was adapted twice for film (1962 and 2003). The idea for the show began in 1949, when he was reminiscing with friends about his childhood years in Mason City. Willson referred to the show as “an Iowan’s attempt to pay tribute to his home state.” The Iowa Fight Song is just another way Willson displayed his deep love of The Hawkeye State. When I was on campus in the early 1970’s, Meredith made a memorable trip to Iowa City, hosting the premiere performances of his own “Music Man” on the new stage of Hancher Auditorium (November 1972). Read more here about Meredith Willson…

Just a brief editorial comment here from your humble author. In my view, Meredith Willson has written the perfect school song. When comparing it with other tunes from around The Big Ten, and yes, I include On Iowa, The Iowa Fight Song fits all the requirements of a true winner. First, it’s a memorable tune – it passes what I call the whistle test. Second, the lyrics are short and easily memorized; and third, Meredith’s arrangement is built to encourage crowd involvement. As a tuba player in the HMB, I was never allowed to sing, since I was providing the bass line. But knowing that the arrangement was built specifically to involve the Hawkeye crowd to sing along was pleasure enough for me. Yes, Mr. Willson – you have composed THE perfect school song…

The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for Iowa,”
Let every loyal Iowan sing;
The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for Iowa,”
Until the walls and rafters ring (rah! rah!)
Come on and cheer, cheer, cheer for Iowa,
Come on and cheer until you hear the final gun.
The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for Iowa,”
Until the game is won.

Lyrics and Music by John Woodman, an early 1950’s graduate of the Business College, and apparently, a very successful hardware salesman. His up-tempo march is still used by the HMB, usually as a transition piece or when coming off the field at pre-game. Very few people, myself included, have the lyrics in the active part of my brain cells. In truth, Roll Along has a stronger melody than it does words, but despite that, this classic just keeps rolling on for Hawkeye fans.

Roll along, Iowa, Roll down the field,
On to victory!
Roll along, Iowa, Don’t ever yield,
Always a winner be!
Get that ball, Give your all,
For dear Old Gold,
Raise her banner high!
With firm endeavor,
Roll on forever, U of I.

From 1999 – Old Gold Singers in Clapp Recital Hall.

Lyrics and Music by Gene Mills, who was a 1947 graduate in the College of Engineering, first composed the melody to this song in 1943 while heading off to fight in WWII. Interestingly, it wasn’t until seventeen years later (1960) that Mills was inspired to write words to the melody after watching the 1960 Iowa vs. Ohio State Homecoming game. The song instantly became popular after being preformed regularly by The Old Gold Singers. Formed in 1957, OGS was the SUI traveling show choir, combining singing, dancing, and costuming to create memorable experiences for audiences, including an annual holiday performance called Cocoa and Carols. Alma Mater is also known as The Hawkeye Hymn and The Iowa Alumni Song, and is still occasionally played by the HMB at Homecoming, but no one seems to know the words!

Come all alums of Iowa, and blend your voices true;
Sing praises to our Alma Mater, as good Hawkeyes do.
Let’s keep within our hearts a fire to magnify her fame;
Bring credit to these noble halls where glory and honor reign.
The day is near when comrades here will bid farewell and part;
But each Hawkeye carries on, thy spirit in his heart.
Oh! Iowa, Iowa, we drink a toast to you;
We pledge our everlasting love for dear old Iowa U.
Alma Mater, Iowa.

The HMB at Navy Pier in Chicago in 2007.

Of course, we can’t conclude this Hawkeye Sing-Along without including this newer classic, introduced during the Hayden Fry era of the 1980’s. It’s truly a spirit-song that never “officially” appears on any University-sanctioned list – but it must be included here for us to have a fully accurate collection of Hawkeye classics. The tune’s real title is “Im Himmel gibt’s kein Bier” written by Ernst Neubach and Ralph Maria Siegel for a movie made in 1956.

In heaven, there is no beer,
That’s why we drink it here.
And when we’re gone from here,
Our friends will be drinking all the beer.

Ok. Time to put away the songbooks for now. But keep singing your hearts out for the Hawkeyes! ON IOWA! GO HAWKS!


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

(L-0088) Recordings of Old Gold, Three Cheers for Iowa, and Iowa Fights, Wayne Neuzil – 33 1/3 LP Record, Sound Torrent Productions, 1983

Sing Along with SUI’s Parade of Music, The Daily Iowan, October 27, 1962, p 7 Long

University Archives: Resource Guide to University Traditions and Songs, University of Iowa Libraries

School Songs, On Iowa, University of Iowa

University of Iowa School Songs, TourTheTen.com

Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms, A Traditional Irish Air – 18th Century, Wikipedia

Old Gold sheet music, University of Iowa Songs, Hinds, Hayden, and Eldredge, Inc. NYC, 1921, p 4

Three Cheers for Iowa sheet music, University of Iowa Songs, Hinds, Hayden, and Eldredge, Inc. NYC, 1921, p 12

Iowa Background, Springfield, IL Public Schools, SPS186.com

Old Gold, Cornelia Mallett Barnhart, Palimpsest Volume 28 – May 1947, pp 144-149

On Iowa, Wikipedia

Iowa Corn Song, University of Iowa Digital Library

In Heaven There Is No Beer, Wikipedia

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