Fight Songs
Page One


Page One: The Standards

Page Two: The Lost Fight Songs

Page Three: From the Vault

"Go U Northwestern"

Northwestern enjoyed rousing team songs before "Go U," but Theodore Van Etten's tune became a school standard almost immediately.  Van Etten was inspired by the 1912 NU-Indiana game, in part by the Purple's 20-7 win, and in part by Indiana's fight song.  He wrote the song (originally called "Go Northwestern Go!") and lyrics on the way home from Bloomington, and the song debuted November 23, 1912, at old Northwestern Field, during the NU-Illinois season finale.  As NUMB played the new fight song, the crowd went wild, leading to the band playing the song again, a celebratory encore of the new school tune.

There are several versions of the lyrics to "Go U Northwestern."  The most commonly accepted are as follows:


Go U Northwestern!
Break right through that line.
With our colors flying,
We will cheer you all the time,
U Rah! Rah!
Go!  U Northwestern!
Fight for victory,
Spread far the fame of our fair name,
Go!  Northwestern win that game.


(Yell)  Go!  Northwestern Go!


(Yell)  Go!  Northwestern Go!
Hit 'em hard!
Hit 'em low!
Go!  Northwestern Go!

(Repeat chorus)

"Push On Song" (Rise Northwestern)

Donald Robertson wrote the words and music to what he titled, "The Northwestern Push On Song" in early 1913, but he did not want to compete with the sudden success of the new "Go U Northwestern."  "Push On" was not performed until Homecoming 1915, and was an immediate hit.  Unlike "Go U," which has remained constantly popular, "Rise Northwestern" has had cyclical success at NU, overtaking "Go U" in the 1920's as the premier NU fight song, and waning in popularity until a resurgence in the 1950's.

The original lyrics to "Rise Northwestern" are:


Push on Northwestern and go in to win,
Push on Northwestern and fight,
May word and deed keep you in the lead,
Push on for victory with all your might.
Loyal and true we are always with you,
Push when the game goes hard,
From east or west we know you're the best,
Push on for victory.

Rise, Northwestern,
We'll always stand by you,
Go, Northwestern,
We will ever cheer and sing for you to
Win, Northwestern,
Our hearts will ever yearn
For the Purple banner waving high
For Northwestern

Varsity, varsity.
Hit 'em hard and low,
Varsity, varsity,
Go Northwestern Go!
U Rah!  Rah!  U Rah!  Rah!
U Northwestern Rah.

(Repeat chorus)

By the 1980s, however, only the chorus was still commonly sung: the "Push on" verses and the yell are usually not sung.  Also by the '80s students and fans began yelling "Go 'Cats!" at the end of the chorus repeat.

Alma Mater (University Hymn)

The music and lyrics to the Alma Mater have had a strange evolution.  Peter Lutkin, NU's legendary Musical Director at the turn of the 20th Century, based the piece on Johannes Brahms'  Variations on the St. Anthony Chorale by Francis Joseph Haydn.   Haydn himself had based his song on an Austrian pilgrim's hymn.  Lutkin rearranged the piece in 1907 and re-christened it "Quæcumque Sunt Vera," also known as the "University Chant." 

The phrase "Quæcumque Sunt Vera" comes from Phillipians 4:8 and means, "Whatsoever things are true."  In 1856, shortly after Northwestern's founding, the school began using an official seal that depicted an open book, rays of light, and the words, "Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois."  In the 1880s Daniel Bonbright redesigned the seal, adding the Latin motto (as well as the inscription on the book in the seal.  The inscription is the Greek version of John 1:14: "The Word...full of grace and truth."). 
After Lutkin arranged the music for "Quæcumque Sunt Vera" J. Scott Clark took the university's motto and wrote Latin lyrics around it. 

æcumque Sunt Vera" remained an NU staple for four decades before falling into obscurity.  In the 1950s John Paynter, NU's legendary Band Director, re-arranged the tune, bringing it closer to the Brahms version, and  Thomas Tyra wrote brand new lyrics to the music (this time in English).   The song became known as "University Hymn," better known simply as the Alma Mater.

Here are Clark's original-- and now quite obscure-- Latin lyrics, with the even-more obscure second verse:


Quæcumque sunt vera,
Proba, justa, mera,
Omnia haec dona,
Præbes nobis bona,
Alma Mater cara,
Benedicta, clara,
Celsa in honore
Nostro et amore!    Amen.

Mater O benigna,
æstans tu et digna;
Custos juventutis,
Fida dux virtutis;
Gratias agentes,
Pie reverentes;
Peni tus amamus
Deo te mandamus.

And here are the new-- much more familiar-- lyrics written by Tyra:


Hail to Alma Mater
We will sing thy praise forever
All thy sons and daughters
Pledge thee victory and honor
Alma Mater Praise be thine
May thy name forever shine
Hail to purple
Hail to white
Hail to thee Northwestern

About the MIDI Files

Audio files of Northwestern's fight songs appear in various forms on the Web, most notably as .WAV files (.WAV files can be found on Northwestern's official site,  The .WAV files available are straight recordings of the marching band.   However, until now there haven't been any MIDI versions available.  MIDI files are simple audio files that take up very little space.

The MIDI files listed above were arranged and coded by me, based on some of the earliest sheet music copies available.  Because of this, there are some clear differences between the MIDI versions and the modern versions we are used to hearing. 

"Go U Northwestern," for instance, has changed over the years subtly.  You might hear differences during the lyrics "break right through that line" and "fight for victory."  The original arrangements above have additional differences-- I'm not a MIDI expert, and had to make some changes to make the tune more "MIDI friendly."

"Push On" has syncopation that is quite different from how it is performed today, and the melody has evolved slightly.

The Alma Mater shows the most striking differences.  The following MIDI is closer to the modern, Paynter-revised version: Click here for the more common arrangement (this file was not created by me; I took it from the Web, and-- unfortunately-- its arranger and coder is unknown).  The versions I arranged and included above are from Lutkin's original transcription.  The tune is significantly stripped down and simple, missing the dramatic pauses and swelling sound that are now very familiar.