- "Hail to the Victors - a borrowed song?"

Submitted by NHWolverine on November 5th, 2009 at 11:43 AM

I didn't see this posted anywhere yet, and frankly I don't even want to be the one to break this new to anyone (hopefully this is only news to me), but here goes nothing.

According to a story in yesterday our beloved fight song The Victors may not be an original piece of work:…

In the audio sample you may want to scroll over to 1:40 or so to listen to the offense.



November 5th, 2009 at 12:05 PM ^

You beat me to it. I always cringe when people call it "Hail To The Victors."

Example: In loading screens for NCAA 10 when Michigan is playing (or if you're doing a practice within Road To Glory) they have a blurb that mentions " the band blasts "Hail to the Victors..."



November 5th, 2009 at 5:04 PM ^

Actually, what I think is equally blasphemous about The Victors in NCAA10 is the stinger note added at the end. The song doesn't go "...Champions of the West...DUM!" It's been this way in every NCAA game I can remember and it always pisses me off.


November 5th, 2009 at 11:54 AM ^

some research for the sheet music of The Victors. The original music is somewhat different and the Victors flows better than the original from which it was adapted.

Either way, despite anything written to the contrary, John Philips Sousa stated: "The Victors is the greatest college fight song ever written."

That's all there is and there isn't any more!


November 5th, 2009 at 12:00 PM ^

"But to say Elbel stole Rosenberg's work is a stretch, Montgomery said. It's fairer to say "Spirit of Liberty" was an inspiration, an influence for the song that would become U-M's fight song."

Nothing more to say.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

Yup, Elbel must have "borrowed" the trio or whatever you call it. However, that doesn't change the fact that, in total, The Spirit of Liberty absolutely pales in comparison to The Victors. Everything up to the trio at the end is completely forgettable, unlike what Elbel wrote.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

It seems to me that all of music is based on inspiration from those before them. There seem to be small differences between the two, but even if there are not, a small portion of a song was used and extrapolated upon as inspiration for the greatest fight song of all time.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:13 PM ^

Elbel : Rosenberg :: _____ : Queen ?
a) No-no-no-no-Notorious B.I.G.
b) Vanilla Ice
c) Kanye West
d) Yo Elbel, I'm really happy for you and I'ma let you finish, but Rosenberg had one of the best compositions of all time! OF ALL TIME!
e) None of the above, the second artist changed a note!


November 5th, 2009 at 1:55 PM ^

The SAT dropped logic years ago, brah, the kids don't know what you're talking about and are unaware of this "Queen" you mention.

(My grandparents started my SAT prep when I was like 10 so I get it; +1 for you and -1 for my childhood quality of life.)


November 5th, 2009 at 12:44 PM ^

"borrowed" from the previous rendition, no question about it. Is it any worse than MC Hammer "borrowing" from Rick James, or Vanilla Ice "borrowing" from David Bowie? Nah. No big deal.

Section 1

November 5th, 2009 at 1:27 PM ^

but whatever.

It will enrage my fellow Wolverines to hear me say it, but one of the great alma maters in collegiate musicology is "Carmen Ohio," of OSU. Buckeyes love the song, it's got good lyrics (at least the majority of OSU grads can sing it; how many know all the lyrics to "The Yellow and Blue" or "Varsity"?) that actually include the phrase "alma mater", and, most of all, it is a really great, harmonic, tune. And where did they get the tune? It was "stolen" from an old Methodist hymn. (Words composed by the author on a train ride back from an 86-0 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor.) But this business of "stolen" music is ridiculous in the music world. Listen, sometime, to 25 or 50 march tunes. After about the tenth one, you could probably write the next one in your head.

Linebacker Cie Grant singing Carmen Ohio:

If we had a Youtube video of Lamar Woodley singing "The Yellow and Blue" as beautifully as that, I would play it every day with tears in my eyes.

Just as an aside, here is the hymn -- such an old tune that it is simply referred to as "the Spanish Hymn" -- that OSU borrowed for "Carmen Ohio":

Section 1

November 5th, 2009 at 6:02 PM ^

But nobody ever really knew what the ten, or eleven or twelve "points" were, and the phrase has gained wide usage, or misusage, as "nine tenths." I wouldn't bother correcting any routine civilian, but since we're Michigan Men, we expect more from each other, and we expect that we are all far better than any routine civilian...


November 5th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

Michigan State's fight song is based off an old hymn, "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" ( and if I recall correctly, On Wisconsin has a 'borrowed' section as well.

There's another argument you can make based on that article that Elbel's intentions weren't dishonest--if it's hard to believe that he had never heard Rosenberg's work, then it's hard to believe the Michigan fans singing The Victors hadn't either. So Elbel wasn't trying to put something over on people--it's just that fight songs written at the time commonly borrowed from other songs.


November 5th, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

In the MMB this is pretty widely known. Yes, the main melody was inspired by that song, but does it matter? As has been said above and in the article, EVERY song unless it's some completely new genre is inspired by previous music. That's just the way it is.

Also, The Victors is more than just the short part everyone knows the words to.

M Fanfare

November 5th, 2009 at 4:18 PM ^

Some things have been left out of this story.

Years ago, copyright law was not what it used to be. Any composer could borrow from anyone's work that he wished to and write his own piece using the other guy's melodies. Beethoven famously ripped off someone else's violin concerto and then wrote the guy a letter that essentially said "sorry I ripped off your violin concerto and got so much acclaim for it." Since recorded music only came about in the late 19th century, it didn't really matter who wrote what as it was unlikely if you ripped something off from someone that anyone would be the wiser.

Also, Elbel was a music student. It was common for student musicians from the 1500s until the 20th century to learn how to compose by borrowing music from established composers and then re-work the song (the Beethoven story may have had this at play as well). Though Elbel only borrowed a few measures from "The Spirit of Liberty March" it's likely that some of these factors were present: loose copyright law, common musical practice, and student composition.

Also: The Victors in its full as-written version takes nearly three minutes to play (the MMB performs this version during its postgame concert). Nothing in the full version remotely resembles anything in "The Spirit of Liberty March" apart from the trio. If Elbel borrowed 30 seconds of a three-minute piece, then I'm ok with that.

M Fanfare

November 5th, 2009 at 4:26 PM ^

This practice is not limited to "The Victors" either. The Michigan song "I Want to Go Back to Michigan" is not original to UM either. OSU has a song with the EXACT same tune called "I Want to Go Back to Ohio State." From what I've been told, both schools ripped the tune off from Cal.

Also, someone pointed out that MSU and Wisconsin borrowed music from elsewhere. Some colleges have even ripped off their fight songs...FROM OTHER COLLEGES! Miami (OH) simply re-wrote the words to the University of Chicago's fight song "Wave the Flag" and Oklahoma's fight song "Boomer Sooner" is a re-worded combination of Yale's "Boola Boola" (which became the "Boomer Sooner" verse) and North Carolina's "I'm a Tarheel Born" (which of course became "I'm a Sooner Born").