"The Spirit of America."

It's in blue letters at the bottom of the Massachusetts license plate.

How nice, you think, as you're sitting there in traffic, staring at the plate in front of you. It's a solid slogan -- probably has something to do with the Mayflower or the Revolutionary War or Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook at Harvard.

It's also a tune, and a damn good one at that, but not one many folks from Massachusetts know. That's because the song was created to entice tourists to the state. It surfaced in the 1980s in ads that played elsewhere. Thanks to YouTube, we can enjoy those ads, too.

The ads come off a bit cheesy over 30 years later, yet they remain undeniably wholesome and enticing. You watch a sweet couple antiquing or a smiling boy enjoying a Red Sox game and you say, "This Massachusetts place doesn't look so bad. I think I'll go."

The images are great but they're not doing the heavy lifting here. Leave that to the peppy, patriotic, powerful music. "The Spirit of Massachusetts" is an ode to the Bay State that refreshingly doesn't include any cliche references to Dunkin' or clam chowder. It's simply earnest lyrics set to an appealing melody. It makes you feel like you can get off the couch and run the Boston Marathon or at least do the dishes.

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Underground enthusiasm for the song has renewed early in the 21st century, thanks largely to its unexpected and lengthy appearance in a Family Guy episode. "Play It Again, Brian," which aired in the sixth season in 2008, follows the Griffin family to Martha's Vineyard. The episode ends with Peter leading a full-on, march-in-the-streets singalong to the catchiest tourism song of the '80s. It's ridiculous in the best way.

Family Guy, created by RISD alum Seth MacFarlane and set in a fictional Rhode Island town, has given love to Massachusetts before. The long-running Fox sitcom notably referenced New Bedford in two episodes and, in another, a fictional joke shop in South Attleboro. The show, now in its 22nd season, also doesn't skimp on big musical numbers, including its theme.

I get it. The '80s are long gone. That doesn't mean good music must go, too. It's time to bring back minute-long TV show themes, catchy gum commercial jingles and, yes, tourism campaigns that tug on the heartstrings, fill folks with pride and give us something to hum.

That's the Spirit.

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