Brown Logo

Office of University Communications
38 Brown Street / Box 1920
Providence RI 02912

401 863-2453
Fax 863-1650
[email protected]

Contact Mark Nickel


From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:


Songs of Brown University have been sung since the middle nineteenth century when students gathered on the steps of Manning Hall to sing. With student singers in mind James A. DeWolf 1861 wrote for the Brown Paper of 1860 a song called “Old Brown,” which was renamed “Alma Mater” in 1869, and is well known. In 1891 John B. Barbour 1891, Edward B. Birge 1891, and Arthur H. Colby 1891 compiled Songs of Brown University, a collection of songs, mostly written by the students. When Alfred G. Chaffee ’02 and Ralph W. McPhee ’07 compiled another songbook with the same title in 1908, they included not only the songs about Brown, but also the old familiar tunes that Brown men sang. Some of the songs written in celebration of Brown were “Mother Dear, Brunonia” and “Hail, Brunonia,” both with words by Henry R. Palmer 1890, “On the Chapel Steps,” by Joel N. Eno 1883 and George C. Gow 1884, “Bruno,” by A. G. Chaffee ’02, “God Bless Our University,” with words by Henry R. Palmer 1890 and music by Jules Jordan, and “Bring the Victory to Brown,” by Donald Jackson ’09. In 1921 another songbook, also entitled Songs of Brown University was edited by William T. Hastings ’03 and Thomas B. Appleget ’17. Professor Walter G. Everett wrote a Commencement song while he was at Aigle, Switzerland, during the Commencement season of 1922. Everett said he had no plan to write a song, but all day his thoughts turned to the Brown commencement and at night amid the beauty of his surroundings in Switzerland the words of the song came to him. On his return to Brown he showed his song to President Faunce. It was first sung at Commencement in 1923.

There were songs which were inspired by specific occasions at Brown, as the “Boating Song” by Adoniram Brown Judson 1859, a member of the first crew, and “The Water Procession,” by Francis E. Bliss 1868 and Francis Lawton 1869, which commemorated the march downtown to get water when the bucket of the college well was removed by the authorities in 1867-68. “Bylo,” a song borrowed and arranged by Alfred G. Chafee ’02, appeared in the 1908 songbook, with this verse, “I bought a rooster for fifty cents, B-R-O-double-U-N, The son-of-a-gun jumped over the fence,” followed by the chorus, “Bylo, my Baby, B-R-O-double U-N ...” and later, with other verses, became a popular party song. The best known songs of Brown are:

Ever True to Brown
by Donald Jackson ’09

We are ever true to Brown,
For we love our college dear,
And wherever we may go,
We are ready with a cheer,
And the people always say,
That you can’t outshine Brown Men,
With their Rah! Rah! Rah!
And their Ki! Yi! Yi!
And their B-R-O-double U-N!
Words by W. A. Hart ’03
Music by E. W. Corliss 1895
We’re loyal sons of good old Brown,
We’re out to do or die,
And cheer our team to vict’ry
With our Ki-Yi-Yi.
Our team is made of heroes bold
Who aren’t afraid to try,
And we are right behind them with our Ki-Yi-Yi.
Ki-Yi-Yi! Come and give a good and lusty Ki-Yi-Yi!
For our team so tried and trusty,
Ki-Yi-Yi, boys!
Come – Now, Give them a good snappy Ki-Yi-Yi!
“Ki-Yi-Yi” was written on one fall day in 1902 after a chance remark of Steve Waterman Mason ’05 to William A. Hart ’03 that a new Brown song was needed. Hart immediately wrote some lyrics and they took them to Edward Corliss to have them set to music. This collaboration resulted in the completion of the song that afternoon and its first performance by the band at the football game the next week. It was first printed in the 1903 Liber Brunensis.

The Brown Cheering Song
Words by Robert B. Jones ’07

When Brunonia’s Big Brown Team is in the game,
And the whole line is fighting to guard her name,
And the Bear growls like thunder as the backs crash by,
There’s a killing on the Old Hill tonight!

Brunonia’s banners are waving in triumph on the hill;
Brunonia’s cohorts are cheering for the Bear has made his kill,
This day is Brown’s, Brown’s forever,
Let the vanquished count the cost!
So rise, rise and cheer, boys, till the last white line is crossed!

I’m a Brown Man Born

I’m a Brown man born, I’m a Brown man bred,
And when I die, I’m a Brown man dead.

For it’s Rah, Rah, Brunonia-o-nia;
Rah, Rah, Brunonia-o-nia;
Rah, Rah, Brunonia, BROWN, BROWN, BROWN!

Oh, we’ve licked Harvard and we’ve licked Yale,
And we’ve tied a knot in the tiger’s tail.

Oh, we’ve licked Dartmouth and we’ve licked Penn,
And what is more, we can do it again.

“I’m a Brown Man Born” was adapted from “I’m a Tar-Heel Born,” a song of the University of North Carolina, which was brought back in 1903 by the Brown baseball team which had played two games with North Carolina in a pre-season Southern trip.

The women students had their own songs, which were published in Songs of the Women’s College in Brown University, edited by Arline Field ’11. Included were “Alma Mater” by Marion F. Catlin ’12, “College Days” by Grace Sherwood ’06, “Our College” by Mildred C. Bishop ’12, and “What Shall We Sing of College Days?” by Hilda R. Bronson ’13 to music by Frank M. Bronson 1884. The next songbook of the same title was edited and compiled by Frances P. O’Connor ’17 in 1917. New songs included in the new book were the “Class Song” of the Classes of 1916, 1917, and 1918, and a timely “Voting Song,” with words by May Sperry ’18 and music by Rose Presel ’18. Also included was the “Senior Sigh,” the words of which were “B-R-U-N-O-N-I-A, Seniors,” sung first mezzoforte and then pianissimo. The third song book of the Women’s College was edited and compiled by Gertrude G. Potter ’28. “Oh It’s Fun to be a Freshman,” written by Faith Rogers ’25, had four verses relating to the four classes and sung to the melodies of “Wearing of the Green,” “Nursery Song,” “Last Night on the Back Porch,” and “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” Other songs depicting the college life of the women were “Chapel in the Attic” by Olive Topkin ’21, “Listen, Freshmen” by Gertrude Potter, “Apparatus Blues” by Elizabeth Young ’24 and Orina Kidd ’24, and “Get Me a Man for Prom” by Lucy Burnham ’27 and Alice McGrath ’29.

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.

Return to Encyclopedia Index  |  University Home Page