Our Minnesota & Minnesota Fight

In the spring of 1925, it was clear to the students, alumni, and faculty that Minnesota was suffering from a lack of spirited fight songs. While the Minnesota Rouser was well-liked, there was no musical variety to keep the crowd on its feet. To remedy this "deplorable situation," a committee headed by music department Chair Carlyle Scott was appointed to solicit new songs from Minnesota's talented students.

The Minnesota Union quickly threw its hat in the ring, offering a fifty-dollar prize for the best college song text and another fifty dollars for the best music. Songs were to be submitted to the judging committee consisting of Scott, Choral Music Professor Donald Ferguson, and Otto Zellbne of the College of Engineering. Killeen made it clear that the judges wanted peppy, spirited songs, "none of this 'stately college halls' or 'purple haze' stuff.

After a month of pleas in the Daily for song entries, the creative pens started to flow. More than forty entries were submitted, among them a composition by music student Marion Bassett. A native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, Miss Bassett had chosen the University of Minnesota for her education based on the excellent reputation of its music department.

She became a student of string professor (and onetime U of M marching band director) Karl Scheurer, who was the first violinist with the Minneapolis Symphony. Although Marion was in pursuit of a music degree, she opted for a major in English and a minor in music, "so that I would earn a BA rather than a BM!"

As luck would have it, about the time the contest was getting underway, Marion was taking a class in music from Professor Scott, and each of his students was assigned the task of composing a "pep song" to be entered. Marion went to work, and as she explained in a 1990 interview, "It was just a tune I had in my head . . . There was no real inspiration for it."

Turning to her father, George S. Bassett, for assistance with the lyrics, Marion turned in a composition that was chosen as one of five top tunes to be considered for the prize. One of the other four candidates with a shot at fame and small fortune was Truman Richard, who had penned the music and lyrics to Hail! Minnesota some twenty-one years earlier. The Minnesota Daily records that the judging committee was so impressed with these two entries, finding "something of merit in both songs," that the award was split between the two: Bassett's Our Minnesota and Rickard's Minnesota! Let's Go! (later to become known as Minnesota Fight).

The new songs were arranged for band by Michael Jalma in time for the first pepfest of the 1925 football season. Words for both pieces were published in the Daily, and seven hundred Rooter Club members sang as the band played for their campus debut. The Daily later noted that "Minnesota enthusiasm now has an adequate means of outlet with two new fight songs...serving as safety valves to permit the explosion of Minnesota pep." Both tunes were published a year later by the General Alumni Association in a folio of Minnesota songs.

Both Our Minnesota and Minnesota Fight have stood the test of time and continue to be performed regularly by the Minnesota Band.

Our Minnesota

On, you Gophers! You fighting Gophers!
Break that line and win this game!
Fight it through, men, win the Big Ten,
Make them sorry that they came!
For the glory of Minnesota,
For the honor that's her due,
For Maroon and Gold be warriors bold
For dear old "U"!

Minnesota Fight

Minnesota, come on, let's go!
It's a loyal crowd that's here;
With a Sis-Boom-Ah and a Ski-U-Mah,
For the varsity we cheer! Rah! Rah!
The old fight gang, on your marks, Slam! Bang!
Hit 'em hard and hit 'em low,
So fight, Minnesota, fight!
Minnesota! Come on, let's go!

Adapted from the U of M Marching Band Centennial Book, Minnesota Hats Off to Thee, ©1992 by The University of Minnesota Band Alumni Society, which remains available for purchase from the University of Minnesota Bookstores.