For 35 years, Jim Nabors was “The Voice” when it came to singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500.
Now, Josh Kaufman, winner of the sixth season of NBC’s “The Voice,” will sing what was Nabors’ theme song prior to the 100th running of the Indy 500, track officials announced Thursday.
And to make the rendition even more homey, Kaufman is not only a native of Indianapolis, he’ll be accompanied by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir.
“The singing of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ is a signature of the Indianapolis 500 and one that our fans cherish as a distinctly ‘Hoosier’ moment,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said in a media release.
“Since Jim Nabors’ final performance in 2014, our goal is to select performers who have an understanding of the song’s meaning and significant importance to the Indianapolis 500 experience and the race’s fans,” Boles added. “Josh Kaufman’s impressive voice and local ties, along with support from the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, will deliver just that.”
Kaufman has been singing since the age of 4, and grew up performing in choirs. He’s preparing for the release of a new CD in the next few weeks.
Over the last year, Kaufman has made a number of significant appearances, including making his Broadway debut as the lead and title road in the Tony Award-winning “Pippin.” He also headlined last year’s Indy Jazz fest, as well as appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“I strive to make deep emotional connections with my music and on Memorial Day Weekend at the Indy 500, nothing goes deeper with fans than ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,'” said Kaufman, who also served as grand marshal of the 2014 IPL 500 Festival Parade. “I can’t wait to be a part of history on such a special day.”
According to IMS historian Donald Davidson, “Back Home Again In Indiana” was written in 1917 by lyricist Ballard MacDonald and composer James Hanley, and borrowed from the lyrics and music from what is Indiana’s official song, “On the Banks of the Wabash.”
“Back Home Again In Indiana was first sung at the 1946 Indy 500 by New York Metropolitan Opera performer James Melton. Three years later, it was moved to closer to the start of the race, where it remains today.
Nabors retired after the 2014 race, having performed it 35 times since 1972. Straight No Chaser, an a Capella group, performed it last year.