There will be a good deal of public singing these next few days, during the parties, celebrations and services surrounding the inauguration, and at the inaugural ceremonies themselves.
Democrats and Republicans alike will join voices and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America" and other patriotic songs.
Politicians and regular citizens, regardless of where they align themselves along the liberal-conservative continuum, have long been able to put aside their differences as they blend their voices for certain time-honored lyrics:
"My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty."
"O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain."
But the song that is the centerpiece of every inauguration, and of virtually every formal public appearance by a president of the United States, will be heard instrumentally these next few days -- yet will not be sung.
The song is "Hail to the Chief."
Most people are probably unaware that it even has lyrics.
We're accustomed to hearing the United States Marine Band play the stirring, brass-heavy chords as the president comes into sight.
Why are the words to the song seldom sung?
When you read them, it's easy to surmise one possible reason. In our hyper-partisan times, it would be unrealistic to assume that members of the party out of power would want to enthusiastically belt them out.
Take this year, for example. Try to envision the television pictures of Inauguration Day, were "Hail to the Chief" expected to be sung by all the attendees.
President Obama appears from inside the Capitol, some of the TV cameras focus on Republican congressional leaders John Boehner or Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor -- and they are presumed to wish to ardently vocalize:
"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's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!"
Yes, those are the lyrics to "Hail to the Chief" -- and it's no wonder that few people have ever heard them. They express a lovely all-American sentiment, but--especially in our superheated political climate-- they possess the potential for some pretty awkward moments of public crooning.
Go back a few years. Try to picture, during the administration of George W. Bush, the trio of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and then-Sen. Barack Obama raising their voices in song to warble in Bush's direction: "Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation."
Or imagine, during Bill Clinton's time in office, the sight and sound of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and Trent Lott harmonizing as they gaze at Clinton: "Yours is the aim to make this country grander/This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief."
If, in these political times, the words to "Hail to the Chief" sound a little odd, the history of the song is also not short on oddity.