My Homeland Tennessee: A Research Guide to Songs about Tennessee

Tennessee State Songs and Anthems

"Tennessee Bicentennial Rap"

Joan Hill Hanks

Joan Hill Hanks rapping for the Chattanooga Past DAR Regents Club in 1996

The “Tennessee Bicentennial Rap” was written by poet Joan Hill Hanks of Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Mrs. Hanks had been writing poems since the 1970s and made it a practice to read her work “with a beat.” She stated later that she was “writing rap and didn’t know it.” In 1995 she wrote the poem that became the “Bicentennial Rap” as a fun and interesting way to teach students and citizens about the history of Tennessee. In January of 1996, State Senator David Fowler and State Representative Bill McAfee proposed that the poem should become Tennessee’s official “Bicentennial Rap,” and the work was so adopted later that year.

During Tennessee’s Bicentennial year, Mrs. Hanks performed her poem for school assemblies, on television, and before live audiences. If the occasion warranted, she would change the line about about “smooth whiskey” and replace it with “Rafting waters, swimming pools. Olympic medals. Cool, cool, cool.”

Listen to the Joan Hill Hanks perform the "Tennessee Bicentennial Rap"

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