“Hail to the Chief” is the official Presidential Anthem of the United States. The song’s playing accompanies the appearance of the President of the United States at many public events. For major official occasions, the United States Marine Band and other military ensembles are generally the performers, so directives of the United States Department of Defense have, since 1954, been the main basis for according it official status. It is preceded by four ruffles and flourishes when played for the President. The song is also played during a former President’s state funeral, though it can also be played even if the funeral is not a state funeral, such as the funeral of Richard Nixon.
Verses from Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, including “Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!” were set to music around 1812 by the songwriter James Sanderson (c. 1769 – c. 1841), a self-taught English violinist and the conductor of the Surrey Theatre, London, who wrote many songs for local theatrical productions during the 1790s and the early years of the 19th century:
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
— The Lady of the Lake, 1810
Scott’s romance was quickly made into unauthorized romantic melodramas. In November 1810, Scott wrote to a friend that The Lady of the Lake was being made into a play by Martin and Reynolds in London and by a Mr. Siddons in Edinburgh. About the same time, Scott received a letter from a friend and army officer who ended his note with a copy of the music of the Boat Song, “Hail to the Chief.”
Lyrics that were written by Albert Gamse are set to James Sanderson’s music, but they are rarely sung.
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.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that is our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!