[The War of 1812] ‘s forgotten because the causes don’t resonate much today. We went to war to force the British to give up the removal of seamen from our ships and restrictions on our trade with Europe. Nowadays, nobody goes to war to uphold maritime rights. And to confuse the issues of causes, we invaded Canada. We could not challenge Britain on the high seas, so we thought we’d conquer Canada and force concessions on the maritime front. That made it look like a land grab, and that’s the way it’s looked at north of the border. (…) The common view is that the war ended in a draw. But we invaded Canada in 1812 and in 1813, and in the west in 1814, and all three invasions pretty much ended in failure. It doesn’t look like we achieved our war aims. (…) Let me give you an old saw, a loose paraphrase of what a Canadian historian once said: Everybody’s happy with the outcome of the war. Americans are happy because they think they won, the Canadians are happy because they know they won and avoided being swallowed up by the United States, and the British are happiest because they’ve forgotten all about it. (…) I estimate the American deaths were 20,000, the British at 10,000, and Indians at maybe 7,500, but that was a much larger proportion of their population. (…) But (…) Canada wasn’t the end. It was the means. The end was to force Britain to give up their maritime activities. (…) The Republicans were anticipating what one anti-war Republican expected would be a holiday campaign — that Canada is to conquer herself through the principles of fraternity. (…) The popular view is that Washington D.C. was burned, but they only burned the White House, the Capitol, and the state and treasury department. We burned the Naval Yard to keep it out of their hands during our withdrawal. That was undoubtedly the low point of the war. But it was followed a month later by one of the high points, when the British threatened Baltimore but the Royal Navy couldn’t subdue Fort McHenry. That inspired the writing of « The Star Spangled Banner. » And then, in the last great campaign, the British were decisively defeated at New Orleans, and that was a game changer in how we remember the war. Don Hickey
And now they never meet in grove or green, by fountain clear or spangled starlight sheen. but they do square, that all their elves for fear creep into acorn cups and hide them there. Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, II, 2)
What stars do spangle heaven with such beauty as those two eyes become that heavenly face? Shakespeare (The taming of the shrew, IV, 5)
Je vous apporte, Messieurs, une cocarde qui fera le tour du monde et une institution civique et militaire qui doit triompher des vieilles tactiques de l’Europe et qui réduira les gouvernements arbitraires à l’alternative d’être battus s’ils ne l’imitent pas et renversés s’ils osent l’imiter. Lafayette
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons … Marseillaise
Leur sang a purifié la terre qu’ils ont foulée … Et ce sera notre devise : « En Dieu est notre foi »… Star-Spangled Banner
O say, does that blood-striped banner still wave o’er the land of the fetter, and hut of the slave? Parodie abolitionniste
Oh say, do you hear, at the dawn’s early light, the shrieks of those Bondmen, whose blood is now streaming, from the merciless lash, while our banner in sight, with its stars mocking Freedom, is fitfully gleaming! Autre parodie abolitonniste
Oh! Who has not seen, by the dawn’s early light some poor bloated drunkard to his home weakly reeling with blear eyes and red nose most revolting to sight yet still in his breast not a throb of shame feeling? Parodie prohibitionniste
IT’S THE RANGE, STUPID ! (What can you expect from a « barroom ballad composed by a foreigner » and « words that nobody can remember to a tune nobody can sing » ?)
« It has a lot to do with the range. It’s a very wide range. Basically, the notes are very high.It’s traditionally sung in Bb major because going higher than that makes it hard for the altos and basses singing to get to the high note, and going lower makes it hard for the tenors and sopranos to manage.
Kenneth Slowik (Smithsonian Chamber Music Society)
The Star-Spangled Banner” is actually a complex piece of classical music rife with challenges. It demands a one-and-a-half-octave vocal range, and its 19th-century lyrics trip singers up with archaic words like “ramparts. In a classical piece of music, the voice is taken to its extremes, from low to extremely high. That’s what makes it so exciting. ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ has a very strong range, and it stays up in the high range for a long time. “pop music has a range of about four notes, and pop singers tend to get up to the high notes only by screaming. That’s the style. That’s what people have made millions of dollars doing. This can be treacherous, because pop singers generally “don’t have any real sense of pitch or key. They’re used to having an earphone playing music for them” onstage or during recordings. “If they’re going to hit the high note” — at the end of ‘land of the free’ — they have to start in the correct key. If they start in a key that’s too high, they don’t know it until they’re already in. They just crash and burn vocally. … it becomes obvious that the singers don’t understand the meaning of the lyrics. The giveaway is when people sing the piece “with the biggest smile on their face that you’ve ever seen,” despite the fact that “the national anthem is not a happy song. They seem to be thinking, ‘If I just stand here and look emotional, I’m going to appear very American’ … or something. Michael Dean (Herb Albert School of Music)
It’s really not comfortable to sing. Most people have a limited range, and the song has a range that is so wide that most singers have a hard time with it. The national anthem requires a two-octave range, while most people are only comfortable singing within a single octave, Wilson said. Few can sing the melody perfectly. Right off the bat—’O say can you see’—it’s hard, » she said. « Then when you get into ‘And the rockets red glare,’ that’s pretty tricky because it’s so high. And then when singers attempt the high note on ‘The land of the free,’ sometimes it’s a disaster. Kathleen Wilson (music professor)
Some of the verses repeat, but the text is different, and you can easily interchange some of the words. For example, people often confuse gleaming (« twilight’s last gleaming ») and streaming (« The ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. ») Or in the case of Aguilera’s mangled version: « what so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming. … Start the song out lower than what feels normal. The inordinately high note comes as a surprise if you start too high. Robert Dundas (FIU)
This was not during the pledge of allegiance. A woman was singing the Star Spangled Banner when that picture was taken. I was taught by my grandfather that you put your hand over your heart during the pledge, but during the Star Spangled Banner, you sing! (…) I have been pledging allegiance since I was a kid. (…) Just tell whoever sent it, they’re misinformed. Barack Hussein Obama
The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism. Obama (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
I think in the end it does have to be a broad us. It has to be democracy with a small ‘d.’ Obama (1995)
After a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time. My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart. Obama (Independence, Iowa)
Whoever plays, sings or renders the “Star Spangled Banner” in any public place, theatre, motion picture hall, restaurant or café, or at any public entertainment, other than as a whole and separate composition or number, without embellishment or addition in the way of national or other melodies, or whoever plays, sings or renders the “Star Spangled Banner”, or any part thereof, as dance music, as an exit march or as a part of a medley of any kind, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars. Massachussets law (Section 9)
I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English. George W. Bush
Would the French accept people singing the La Marseillaise in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not. Mark Krikorian (Center for Immigration Studies)
Obama est le premier président américain élevé sans attaches culturelles, affectives ou intellectuelles avec la Grande-Bretagne ou l’Europe. Les Anglais et les Européens ont été tellement enchantés par le premier président américain noir qu’ils n’ont pu voir ce qu’il est vraiment: le premier président américain du Tiers-Monde. The Daily Mail
Culturellement, Obama déteste la Grande-Bretagne. Il a renvoyé le buste de Churchill sans la moindre feuille de vigne d’une excuse. Il a insulté la Reine et le Premier ministre en leur offrant les plus insignifiants des cadeaux. A un moment, il a même refusé de rencontrer le Premier ministre. Dr James Lucier (ancien directeur du comité des Affaire étrangères du sénat américain)
“The Anacreontic Song” was actually sung at the start of the Anacreontic Society’s meetings — a gentlemen’s club at the time. Though it was first performed at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in London, Clague claims that “It was a very fashionable restaurant. It had a ballroom that held 200 people which you could hold a two-hour symphony concert in — which was how you started a meeting of the Anacreontic Society. Modeling “The Star-Spangled Banner” after “The Anacreontic Song” would have been “hip and current,” at the time, according to Clague. ABC news
What is fascinating is just to revisit the use of text and words — how much information about social issues is being communicated in the text that wandered with the same melody but through different mutations and given different contexts. (…) I actually very much like our crazy tradition of the last 25 or 30 years of various genius contemporary pop musicians taking this tune and this moment, and turning it into something uniquely theirs at different events. I’m actually very amused and sometimes deeply moved. Thomas Hampson
It’s really sort of an amazing story of how the song has grown up alongside the country: You can really trace the history of the United States in the echoes of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner. (…) The song is a verb, and citizenship is a verb, and that these are part of a process of identity negotiation. (…) When people sing it, and when they put their whole heart and passion behind the song, they give voice to their own citizenship in a way that speaks of their vision of the country. (…) When you see the song [Jimi Hendrix’s famously unorthodox 1969 Woodstock rendition] as something that’s in the process of always becoming, you realize that it is our country — made audible. Mark Clague
There was nothing obligatory about the early history of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Behind Key’s words lay a melody — the so-called Anacreontic Song — endlessly adaptable to the causes of its day, from the French Revolution to abolition to temperance and women’s rights. Only in the last century has the anthem’s tune become inextricably connected to Key’s lyrics, and the lyrics to the sturdy patriotism of baseball and flag raising. The early struggle over the tune’s meaning will be captured in Mr. Hampson’s recital. “We will really tell the story of this song becoming so emblematic and, then eventually, officially, our national anthem, through its own story — its own broadsides, its own lyrics,” he said. (…) Star Spangled Music mainly focuses on K-12 educational projects teaching the history of the anthem. But it also tries to correct popular misconceptions — like the widespread assumption that the tune originated as a drinking song. “To Anacreon in Heaven,” as the melody was first known, had its debut around 1776 at a meeting of the Anacreontic Society, an amateur gentlemen’s music club in London. The song served as an after-dinner transition between a professional orchestral concert and participatory group singing. The society’s president wrote the original lyrics, an ode to the jovial Greek poet Anacreon. A trained tenor would perform the tune as a virtuoso set piece, with the conclusion of each refrain repeated heartily by the society’s member. (…) Its alcoholic repute was in part due to moralistic protests against the tune during the Prohibition era, when Congress was deciding whether to make it the official national anthem. Battling over the meaning of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is an essential — if overlooked — part of the song’s tradition. The Anacreontic Song was well known in the early American republic — most famously as “Adams and Liberty,” an impassioned defense of the second president. In 1793, an American Francophile published a new text for the song supporting the French Revolution; another writer countered with a version that suggested hanging the French ambassador. Key was familiar with the tune before he wrote the “Star-Spangled” verses, having already refashioned it as a paean to American naval heroics in 1805. Nine years later, stuck on a ship after negotiating the release of a prisoner, Key watched the British overnight siege of Baltimore during the War of 1812. When he saw the American flag still waving at dawn — an improbable victory — Key penned the stirring “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” with a rhyme scheme matched to the Anacreontic Song. (…) Perhaps more intriguing than the song’s origin, though, is its multifaceted and contentious American development. (…) Not until 1931 was it officially declared the national anthem. In the 19th century, the tune was regularly refashioned with lyrics to be, alternately, a rallying cry for abolitionists (“Oh, say do you hear, at the dawn’s early light, The shrieks of those bondmen, whose blood is now streaming”) or a temperance-movement indictment of alcohol (“Oh! who has not seen by the dawn’s early light, Some poor bloated drunkard to his home weakly reeling”). (…) Despite its initial wave of popularity, for several decades “The Star-Spangled Banner” ranked third behind “Hail Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle” as the default musical expression of national fervor. In the early days of the Civil War, the North and South both claimed the anthem — Key was, after all, a Maryland slave owner. Only during Reconstruction did it emerge as the predominant American hymn, entrenched by its association with flag-raising ceremonies practiced during the war. Complaints about the tune have remained mostly the same since that era — it’s foreign, it’s hard to sing, the words are not easy to remember. But even if the highest notes on “land of the free” are difficult to reach, the anthem’s hot-blooded history elevates it to the level of American iconography — a reminder that partisanship is crucial to democracy. The New York Times
Democracy is difficult and demanding. So is history. It can crack your voice; it can stir your soul; it can break your heart. The poem that Key wrote two hundred years ago, in a very different United States, ends with a question: Does the star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? The band plays; the band stops. But the song of democracy asks, of everyone who sings it, whether the brightest of our ideals have abided, through each dark and fierce night, into the faint and tender gleaming of dawn. Jill Lepore
The Star-Spangled Banner a un tel poids symbolique que la moindre déviation dans son interprétation se voit attribuer une signification particulière. Le 4 juillet 1941, sur toile de fond de Deuxième Guerre mondiale, le compositeur Igor Stravinsky a interprété pour la première fois un arrangement orchestral qui incorporait quelques harmonies inhabituelles. Cette interprétation a donné lieu à une altercation entre le musicien et la police de Boston, qui subodorait une infraction à la loi de l’État interdisant toute « altération » de l’hymne national. En 1968, pendant le championnat de baseball de la Major League, le chanteur portoricain José Feliciano a interprété The Star-Spangled Banner dans le style des chansons folkloriques contemporaines, en s’accompagnant à la guitare acoustique, et a déclenché une polémique. «Il y avait des gens qui voulaient me déporter, dira-t-il plus tard, comme si on pouvait être déporté à Porto-Rico. » (Porto-Rico est un territoire des États-Unis.) (…) Le style lent, spectral, aux accents de gospel qui était celui de Marvin Gaye quand il a interprété l’hymne national avant le début du match All-Star de la National Basketball Association en 1983, boîte à rythme à l’appui, a conféré à ce chant un caractère moderne surprenant. (…) Chanter The Star-Spangled Banner est la plupart du temps l’expression d’un sentiment de fierté nationale, mais à l’occasion c’est aussi une forme de protestation politique. En 2006, un enregistrement en espagnol (“Nuestro Himno”) se voulait une désapprobation de la politique d’immigration des États-Unis. L’interprétation de Jimi Hendrix au festival de musique de Woodstock en 1969 est devenue légendaire : son imitation de bombardements servant à dénoncer la guerre du Vietnam est l’adaptation radicale la plus connue de l’hymne national. (…) Au Super Bowl de 1991, quand Whitney Houston a chanté l’hymne national en ajoutant des fioritures au passage qui évoque sur des notes très élevées « la terre des gens libres » (“land of the free”), l’Amérique était en pleine guerre du Golfe, et elle a dédié son interprétation aux forces armées du pays. Douglas Wolk
Attention: un hymne national peut en cacher un autre !
Chant de guerre témoignage d’une victoire largement inattendue pour une guerre largement oubliée contre les Anglais, mélodie de chanson à boire britannique, auteur esclavagiste, hymne national aux multiples parodies et officiel depuis guère plus de 80 ans, paroles immémorisables et air inchantable, références aujourd’hui embarrassantes (et d’ailleurs plus chantées) tant au sang purificateur de l’ennemi (qui reste loin néanmoins du « sang impur » français) qu’au « Dieu en qui est notre foi » …
Au lendemain du bicentenaire (que nous avions nous-même oublié) d’un hymne national aussi difficile à mémoriser qu’à chanter …
D’un pays qui s’en passera pendant un siècle et demi …
Et aujourd’hui dirigé par le premier président américain du Tiers-monde …
Comment ne pas s’émerveiller, avec le site de l’ambassade des Etats-Unis …
De ce mélange si américain …
D’individualisme et d’unité comme de fierté nationale et de protestation politique …
Que ces interprétations particulières …
Qui de matches de baseball ou finales de basketball ou Superbowls …
Les douceurs acoustiques d’un Jose Feliciano ou chaloupées d’un Marvin Gaye …
La dissidence explosive d’un Jimi Hendrix ou l’insurrection quasi-sécessioniste (« en español », s’il vous plait) d’une Olga Tanon
L’hymne national américain: un défi vocal
03 juillet 2014
Tradition oblige : on joue The Star-Spangled Banner (La bannière étoilée) au début de tous les matchs de baseball et de bien d’autres manifestations publiques. Il ne faut pas croire pour autant qu’il est facile à chanter, bien au contraire. Mais les interprètes qui ont les qualités vocales requises nous livrent au fil des ans des productions mémorables et uniques du symbole musical le plus marquant des États-Unis.
Quand il a été proclamé l’hymne national en 1931, le New York Herald Tribune l’a décrit en ces termes célèbres: « des mots que personne ne peut se rappeler sur un air que personne ne peut chanter ». La mélodie est une adaptation d’une chanson à boire britannique du XVIIIe siècle, et les paroles étaient au départ un poème rédigé il y a deux cents ans par Francis Scott Key (qui décrivait une bataille de la guerre de 1812). Il est terriblement difficile à chanter correctement parce qu’une octave et demie sépare les notes les plus basses des notes les plus élevées.
D’après un sondage réalisé en 2004, 39 % seulement des Américains sont capables de chanter correctement le troisième vers.
Franklin Bruno, parolier et auteur d’une histoire de la composition de chansons, The Inside of the Tune (à paraître), fait remarquer que l’hymne présageait l’avenir musical du pays à travers la manière dont le rythme et la rime interne du troisième distique (“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air …”) changent la tonalité du morceau en atténuant la qualité martiale des autres vers.
« Il est logique que notre hymne national ne suive pas exactement la forme de la ballade anglaise », estime Franklin Bruno.
The Star-Spangled Banner a un tel poids symbolique que la moindre déviation dans son interprétation se voit attribuer une signification particulière. Le 4 juillet 1941, sur toile de fond de Deuxième Guerre mondiale, le compositeur Igor Stravinsky a interprété pour la première fois un arrangement orchestral qui incorporait quelques harmonies inhabituelles. Cette interprétation a donné lieu à une altercation entre le musicien et la police de Boston, qui subodorait une infraction à la loi de l’État interdisant toute « altération » de l’hymne national.
En 1968, pendant le championnat de baseball de la Major League, le chanteur portoricain José Feliciano a interprété The Star-Spangled Banner dans le style des chansons folkloriques contemporaines, en s’accompagnant à la guitare acoustique, et a déclenché une polémique. «Il y avait des gens qui voulaient me déporter, dira-t-il plus tard, comme si on pouvait être déporté à Porto-Rico. » (Porto-Rico est un territoire des États-Unis.) Mais il a enregistré un single qui a connu un certain succès et, quand il a repris cette version à un match de championnat de baseball en 2012, le public a généralement vu dans son interprétation « un hymne de gratitude à un pays qui m’avait donné une chance ».
Le style lent, spectral, aux accents de gospel qui était celui de Marvin Gaye quand il a interprété l’hymne national avant le début du match All-Star de la National Basketball Association en 1983, boîte à rythme à l’appui, a conféré à ce chant un caractère moderne surprenant. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, la grande vedette de basket de l’équipe des Los Angeles Lakers, avait dit à l’époque que l’interprétation de Marvin Gaye l’avait empli de « fierté d’être Américain . . . on en aurait pleuré, tellement c’était bouleversant ».
Chanter The Star-Spangled Banner est la plupart du temps l’expression d’un sentiment de fierté nationale, mais à l’occasion c’est aussi une forme de protestation politique. En 2006, un enregistrement en espagnol (“Nuestro Himno”) se voulait une désapprobation de la politique d’immigration des États-Unis.
L’interprétation de Jimi Hendrix au festival de musique de Woodstock en 1969 est devenue légendaire : son imitation de bombardements servant à dénoncer la guerre du Vietnam est l’adaptation radicale la plus connue de l’hymne national. « Il n’y a rien de non orthodoxe », a-t-il déclaré à Dick Cavett en septembre 1969 qui l’interviewait dans une émission de télévision. « Je trouvais que c’était beau.»
Au Super Bowl de 1991, quand Whitney Houston a chanté l’hymne national en ajoutant des fioritures au passage qui évoque sur des notes très élevées « la terre des gens libres » (“land of the free”), l’Amérique était en pleine guerre du Golfe, et elle a dédié son interprétation aux forces armées du pays. Quelques semaines plus tard, sorti en single, c’était un tube. Son succès a été plus fulgurant encore quand il est sorti sur disque une deuxième fois dix ans plus tard, les recettes étant destinées aux pompiers et policiers de New York après les attentats du 11 Septembre. Les récentes interprétations de Beyoncé Knowles (notamment à l’investiture du président Obama en 2013) sont plus ou moins calquées sur le modèle de Whitney Houston, y compris l’enjolivement sur la note la plus élevée.
Après tout, ce n’est pas si mal que l’hymne soit difficile à chanter : les Américains jouissent de libertés qui ont été acquises à la dure. Au fil du temps, The Star-Spangled Banner est devenu un chant qui encourage l’expression de l’individualisme et de l’unité. Il y a quelque chose de logique là-dedans, aussi.
Oh, Say Can You Sing?
13 May 2014
Although “The Star-Spangled Banner” is performed before every baseball game and at many other public events, it’s notoriously hard to sing. But in its history, the song has allowed the performers who can sing it to create memorable and unique interpretations of the United States’ most prominent musical symbol.
When “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931, the New York Herald Tribune famously described it as “words that nobody can remember to a tune nobody can sing.” Its melody is adapted from an 18th-century drinking song, and its lyrics from a poem that Francis Scott Key wrote 200 years ago (describing a battle in the War of 1812). And it’s fiendishly hard to hit all the notes — the highest is an octave and a half above the lowest.
A 2004 poll found that only 39 percent of Americans could correctly complete the song’s third line.
Franklin Bruno, songwriter and author of a forthcoming history of songwriting, The Inside of the Tune, points out that the anthem anticipated the country’s musical future in the way the rhythm and rhyme scheme of each verse’s third couplet (“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air …”) change the song’s tone by softening the martial quality of the other lines.
“It’s fitting that our national anthem wouldn’t be in quite the strict English ballad form,” Bruno said.
The national anthem’s symbolic weight also means that when it is performed in anything but a straightforward way, listeners ascribe meaning to the deviation. On July 4, 1941, against the backdrop of World War II, composer Igor Stravinsky premiered an orchestral arrangement of the anthem that incorporated a few unusual harmonies. That performance led to a brief skirmish between Stravinsky and Boston police, who thought he’d violated a state law against “tampering” with the national anthem.
During the 1968 Major League Baseball World Series, Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the style of a contemporary folk-pop song, accompanied by acoustic guitar. It caused a flurry of controversy: “Some people wanted me deported,” he later said, “as if you can be deported to Puerto Rico.” (Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.) But Feliciano’s version became a minor hit single, and he said that by the time he reprised his version at a 2012 championship baseball game, it was generally understood by the audience as “an anthem of gratitude to a country that had given me a chance.”
Marvin Gaye’s slow, spectral, gospel-tinged rendition performed at the 1983 National Basketball Association All-Star game, accompanied by a drum machine, made the song sound shockingly modern. Former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson said Gaye’s performance gave him a feeling of “pride at being an American … you almost cried, it was so devastating.”
While singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is most often a statement of national pride, it can also be a vehicle for political protest. A 2006 Spanish-language recording of the song (as “Nuestro Himno”) criticized American immigration policy.
Jimi Hendrix famously performed his rendition of the anthem at the 1969 Woodstock music festival as a protest against the Vietnam War. Complete with “bombing” sound effects, it is the best-known radical reworking of the anthem. “It’s not unorthodox,” Hendrix told television interviewer Dick Cavett in September 1969 about his interpretation of the anthem. “I thought it was beautiful.”
At the time of the 1991 Super Bowl, when Whitney Houston sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” — with a flourish on the high note of “land of the free” that propelled it even higher — America was in the middle of the Gulf War, and she dedicated her performance to the country’s military. It became a hit when it was released as a single a few weeks later. It was even more successful when it was re-released a decade later, with proceeds to benefit New York firefighters and police after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Beyoncé Knowles’ recent performances of the anthem (at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration, among other venues) have loosely followed Houston’s template, including its extra-high note.
That the anthem is hard to sing may be apt; Americans enjoy freedoms that have not come easily. Over time, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become a song that invites expressions of individuality and of unity. There’s something fitting about that, too.
How the National Anthem Has Unfurled
‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ Has Changed a Lot in 200 Years
June 27, 2014
When the baritone Thomas Hampson sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Library of Congress in Washington on Thursday, it won’t sound quite like the familiar tune belted out at ball games and presidential inaugurations.
A sprightly lilt will replace the usual slow waltz. A jaunty pickup will substitute for the stately descent of “O say.” The last two lines of each verse will be echoed by a septet of singers.
In short, it is how the anthem might have sounded 200 years ago, when Francis Scott Key wrote new lyrics to an old British melody aboard a ship in Baltimore’s harbor.
“Key wouldn’t really recognize what we sing today,” said the musicologist Mark Clague in a joint Skype interview with Mr. Hampson. “It’s missing a phrase of music, it’s at the wrong tempo, it’s much slower, it’s sung by a massed group of people instead of an individual soloist,” he added. A professor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Clague would know: He heads Star Spangled Music, an initiative celebrating the anthem’s bicentennial. While the actual anniversary is Sept. 14, Mr. Hampson’s recital allows for a Fourth of July tie-in.
“I hope that we can be part of something this year that reinvigorates a real connection to where this song came from, other than the obligatory tune that one sings before somebody throws a pitch,” Mr. Hampson said.
There was nothing obligatory about the early history of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Behind Key’s words lay a melody — the so-called Anacreontic Song — endlessly adaptable to the causes of its day, from the French Revolution to abolition to temperance and women’s rights. Only in the last century has the anthem’s tune become inextricably connected to Key’s lyrics, and the lyrics to the sturdy patriotism of baseball and flag raising.
The early struggle over the tune’s meaning will be captured in Mr. Hampson’s recital. “We will really tell the story of this song becoming so emblematic and, then eventually, officially, our national anthem, through its own story — its own broadsides, its own lyrics,” he said.
For those unable to attend, that tale is audible on “Poets & Patriots,” a CD set that includes nearly 30 versions of the Anacreontic Song. There is also a forthcoming Star Spangled Songbook, with scores ready for performance. (New Yorkers can hear one of them, a Toscanini arrangement of the anthem, at the New York Philharmonic’s Star-Spangled Celebration concerts at Avery Fisher Hall next weekend.)
Star Spangled Music mainly focuses on K-12 educational projects teaching the history of the anthem. But it also tries to correct popular misconceptions — like the widespread assumption that the tune originated as a drinking song.
“To Anacreon in Heaven,” as the melody was first known, had its debut around 1776 at a meeting of the Anacreontic Society, an amateur gentlemen’s music club in London. The song served as an after-dinner transition between a professional orchestral concert and participatory group singing. The society’s president wrote the original lyrics, an ode to the jovial Greek poet Anacreon. A trained tenor would perform the tune as a virtuoso set piece, with the conclusion of each refrain repeated heartily by the society’s members
“It’s not a drinking song in the way its reputation would lead people to believe, in the sense of a pub ditty,” Dr. Clague said. “You had to have a harpsichord and four-part harmony, so it just doesn’t work very well in a pub.”
Its alcoholic repute was in part due to moralistic protests against the tune during the Prohibition era, when Congress was deciding whether to make it the official national anthem. Battling over the meaning of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is an essential — if overlooked — part of the song’s tradition.
The Anacreontic Song was well known in the early American republic — most famously as “Adams and Liberty,” an impassioned defense of the second president. In 1793, an American Francophile published a new text for the song supporting the French Revolution; another writer countered with a version that suggested hanging the French ambassador.
Key was familiar with the tune before he wrote the “Star-Spangled” verses, having already refashioned it as a paean to American naval heroics in 1805. Nine years later, stuck on a ship after negotiating the release of a prisoner, Key watched the British overnight siege of Baltimore during the War of 1812. When he saw the American flag still waving at dawn — an improbable victory — Key penned the stirring “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” with a rhyme scheme matched to the Anacreontic Song.
Within a week, the lyrics were printed in Baltimore newspapers, with an indication that they be paired to the familiar British melody. Key supervised a full musical arrangement by the composer and publisher Thomas Carr — issued as “The Star-Spangled Banner” — which Mr. Hampson will sing on Thursday.
About a dozen copies of the Carr arrangement are known to exist. One is on display at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan through Sept. 7. Another is held by the Library of Congress, an institution entwined with the history of the anthem, which has an exhibition about the song running through July 7. “In many ways the story of the research into ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is the story of the music division of the Library of Congress,” Dr. Clague said.
In 1907, Oscar Sonneck — the music division’s first chief — began a full investigation of the anthem’s history. His scrupulous report raised as many questions about the song’s history as it answered: Sonneck urged his readers not to “accept a single statement of fact or argument unless the evidence submitted compels him to do so.”
Sonneck couldn’t conclusively identify the composer of the Anacreontic Song, then a musicological riddle. A later congressional librarian believed it was a military tune of obscure origins; others attributed it to Samuel Arnold, who had published a volume of Anacreontic melodies. Only in the 1970s did the librarian William Lichtenwanger — following the chance discovery of a diary entry hidden in a 10-volume manuscript — successfully attribute the tune to the composer John Stafford Smith, a hired hand who never actually joined the Anacreontic Society.
Perhaps more intriguing than the song’s origin, though, is its multifaceted and contentious American development. “It’s really sort of an amazing story of how the song has grown up alongside the country: You can really trace the history of the United States in the echoes of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ ” Dr. Clague said.
Not until 1931 was it officially declared the national anthem. In the 19th century, the tune was regularly refashioned with lyrics to be, alternately, a rallying cry for abolitionists (“Oh, say do you hear, at the dawn’s early light, The shrieks of those bondmen, whose blood is now streaming”) or a temperance-movement indictment of alcohol (“Oh! who has not seen by the dawn’s early light, Some poor bloated drunkard to his home weakly reeling”).
“What is fascinating is just to revisit the use of text and words — how much information about social issues is being communicated in the text that wandered with the same melody but through different mutations and given different contexts,” Mr. Hampson said. “Quite frankly, the issues fall under what we would call human rights.”
Despite its initial wave of popularity, for several decades “The Star-Spangled Banner” ranked third behind “Hail Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle” as the default musical expression of national fervor. In the early days of the Civil War, the North and South both claimed the anthem — Key was, after all, a Maryland slave owner. Only during Reconstruction did it emerge as the predominant American hymn, entrenched by its association with flag-raising ceremonies practiced during the war.
Complaints about the tune have remained mostly the same since that era — it’s foreign, it’s hard to sing, the words are not easy to remember. But even if the highest notes on “land of the free” are difficult to reach, the anthem’s hot-blooded history elevates it to the level of American iconography — a reminder that partisanship is crucial to democracy. For Dr. Clague, it is a testament that “the song is a verb, and citizenship is a verb, and that these are part of a process of identity negotiation.”
“When people sing it, and when they put their whole heart and passion behind the song, they give voice to their own citizenship in a way that speaks of their vision of the country,” Dr. Clague said. If diva performances of the anthem by Beyoncé or Renée Fleming don’t quite embrace that ethos of national introspection, perhaps resurrecting the tune’s original multiplicity of meanings might.
Dr. Clague and Mr. Hampson, however, don’t want to overturn today’s patriotic conventions. “I actually very much like our crazy tradition of the last 25 or 30 years of various genius contemporary pop musicians taking this tune and this moment, and turning it into something uniquely theirs at different events,” Mr. Hampson said. “I’m actually very amused and sometimes deeply moved.”
And among other research interests, Dr. Clague has long been fascinated by Jimi Hendrix’s famously unorthodox 1969 Woodstock rendition. “When you see the song as something that’s in the process of always becoming,” he said, “you realize that it is our country — made audible.”
The New Yorker
June 16, 2014
At the first game of the 1918 World Series, in Chicago, Babe Ruth pitched for the Red Sox, and a leftie called Hippo Vaughn pitched for the Cubs. An American flag flew from the right-field pole, snapping in the wind like a whip. During the seventh-inning stretch, the band played a song never before played at a major-league baseball game: “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In the stands, fans scrambled to their feet and doffed their caps and sang as best they could, quietly at first. The poem that Francis Scott Key wrote in 1814 can be very hard to sing.
Key, a lawyer, wrote what came to be called “The Star-Spangled Banner” outside Baltimore, at the end of the War of 1812, after seeing, by the dawn’s early light, that the American flag, with its broad stripes and bright stars, was still flying over the ramparts of Fort McHenry, despite having been bombarded all through the night by British cannon fire—their rockets’ red glare, their bombs bursting in air. Set to music and published, Key’s poem got popular. From the start, people made up their own words. Key was a slaveholder and, as a U.S. Attorney, opposed abolition in print and in court. Abolitionists sang a song of protest: “O say, does that blood-striped banner still wave / O’er the land of the fetter, and hut of the slave?” Key died in 1843. In 1857, his brother-in-law and former law partner, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, wrote the most infamous legal opinion in American history, in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford: he said that Americans descended from Africans “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution.” Frederick Douglass called Taney’s decision monstrous. Abraham Lincoln said that the nation could not endure half slave and half free. In the civil war that followed, more than seven hundred thousand Americans died.
In 1917, the United States entered the First World War, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official anthem of the Army and Navy. Many Americans opposed the war. Congress passed laws meant to silence that opposition; dissenters were jailed. At the 1918 World Series, when the band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the seventh-inning stretch, Fred Thomas, the Red Sox third baseman—a Navy sailor on furlough—stood at military attention. The applause was like thunder. There was more thunder to come. During the eighth inning, warplanes flew over the field. Babe Ruth pitched a shutout; the Red Sox won. But it was the singing of the song that everyone remembered. In 1931, Congress made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem. Before then, there hadn’t been one.
No nation has a single history, no people a single song. Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land,” a populist anthem about the poor and the needy, in 1940: “As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking / Is this land made for you and me?” In the nineteen-forties and nineteen-fifties, wars abroad were followed by struggles for justice at home. Civil-rights activists sang Guthrie’s song while they marched, walking that ribbon of highway, seeing that endless skyway.
Key’s song carried on. In the nineteen-sixties, what started as a song of war came to mean something more, something searching and grave. In 1969, at Woodstock, while Americans were fighting in Vietnam, Jimi Hendrix, who’d been honorably discharged from the 101st Airborne, played the national anthem on his guitar, angry and mournful and shattering. “I’m American, so I played it,” he said later. “I thought it was beautiful.” It became, in that moment, an anthem of dissent.
Democracy is difficult and demanding. So is history. It can crack your voice; it can stir your soul; it can break your heart. The poem that Key wrote two hundred years ago, in a very different United States, ends with a question: Does the star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? The band plays; the band stops. But the song of democracy asks, of everyone who sings it, whether the brightest of our ideals have abided, through each dark and fierce night, into the faint and tender gleaming of dawn.
Spanish ‘Banner’ draws protest
MIAMI (AP) — British music producer Adam Kidron says he just wanted to honor the millions of immigrants seeking a better life in the U.S. when he came up with the idea of a Spanish-language version of the national anthem.
The initial version of Nuestro Himno, or Our Anthem comes out Friday and features artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.
Some Internet bloggers and others are infuriated by the thought of The Star-Spangled Banner sung in a language other than English, and the version of the song has already been the target of a fierce backlash.
« Would the French accept people singing the La Marseillaise in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not, » said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls.
Nuestro Himno uses lyrics based closely on the English-language original, said Kidron, who heads the record label Urban Box Office.
Pro-immigration protests are planned around the country for Monday, and the record label is urging Hispanic radio stations nationwide to play the cut at 7 p.m. ET Friday in a sign of solidarity.
A remix to be released in June will contain several lines in English that condemn U.S. immigration laws. Among them: « These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws … let’s not start a war with all these hard workers, they can’t help where they were born. »
Bryanna Bevens of Hanford, Calif., who writes for the immigration-focused Web magazine Vdare.com, said the remix particularly upset her.
« It’s very whiny. If you want to say all those things, by all means, put them on your poster board, but don’t put them on the national anthem, » she said.
Kidron, a U.S. resident for 16 years, maintains the changes are fitting. After all, he notes, American immigrants borrowed the melody of the Star Spangled Banner from an English drinking song.
« There’s no attempt to usurp anything. The intent is to communicate, » Kidron said. « I wanted to show my thanks to these people who buy my records and listen to the music we release and do the jobs I don’t want to do. »
Kidron said the song also will be featured on the album Somos Americanos, which will sell for $10, with $1 going to the National Capital Immigration Coalition, a Washington group.
James Gardner, an associate director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said Americans have long enjoyed different interpretations of the Star Spangled Banner, including country or gospel arrangements.
« There are a number of renditions that people aren’t happy with, but that’s part of it — that it means enough for people to try to sing, » he said.
Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, said this country was built by immigrants, and « the meaning of the American dream is in that record: struggle, freedom, opportunity, everything they are trying to shut down on us. »
At least one prominent American said the national anthem should be performed in its original language.
When the president was asked whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: « I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, » President Bush said Friday at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session with reporters.
Immigrants aiming for citizenship should learn English, Bush said.
« One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul, » he said.
The president’s comments came amid a burgeoning national debate — and congressional fight — over legislation pending in Congress, and pushed by Bush, to overhaul U.S. immigration law. Large numbers of immigrant groups have planned an economic boycott next week to dramatize their call for legislation providing legal status for millions of people in the United States illegally.
« I am not a supporter of boycotts, » Bush said. « I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. … I think that most Americans agree that we’ve got to enforce our border. »
Spanish ‘Star Spangled Banner’ — Touting the American Dream or Offensive Rewrite?
April 27, 2006
« The Star Spangled Banner » has provided the soundtrack to our national pastime since 1918, when the spirited tune debuted at a baseball game.
Now there is a new version with changes to the time-honored lyrics.
A group of Spanish music stars has presented its own take on the national anthem for Latino immigrants, in their native language, titled « Nuestro Himno » or « Our Anthem. »
The idea came from music executive Adam Kidron, who sympathized with the recent immigrant demonstrations but was troubled by the number of Mexican flags in the crowd.
He hopes the new Spanish-language version of the national anthem will demonstrate Latino patriotism and encourage more American flags at the demonstrations.
« It has the passion, it has the respect, it has all of the things that you really want an anthem to have and it carries the melody, » said Kidron.
Altered Lyrics Tone Down Battle
« The Star Spangled Banner » has endured some extreme versions — from Jimmy Hendrix’s explosive guitar rendition to one from soul signer Marvin Gaye — since Francis Scott Key first wrote the poem while watching the British bombard an American fort during the War of 1812.
The current version will likely spark debate, because it is not an exact translation. Some of the classic lyrics have been changed for rhyming reasons while other phrases were altered to soften war references. For example:
English version: And the rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Spanish version: In the fierce combat, the sign of victory, the flame of battle in step with liberty through the night it was said it was being defended.
The original author’s great-great grandson, Charles Key, finds the Spanish version unpatriotic and is adamant that it should be sung only in English.
« I think its a despicable thing that someone is going into our society from another country and … changing our national anthem, » Key said.
Those behind the new song say Key and others miss the point. The Spanish version is meant to show immigrant pride in a new country where they live and work.
It will be heard across the country at 7 p.m. ET tomorrow, debuting simultaneously on more than 700 Spanish language radio stations.
An Anthem’s Discordant Notes
Spanish Version of ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Draws Strong Reactions
The Washington Post
April 28, 2006
Oh say can you see — a la luz de la aurora?
The national anthem that once endured the radical transformation administered by Jimi Hendrix’s fuzzed and frantic Stratocaster now faces an artistic dare at least as extreme: translation into Spanish.
The new take is scheduled to hit the airwaves today. It’s called « Nuestro Himno » — « Our Anthem » — and it was recorded over the past week by Latin pop stars including Ivy Queen, Gloria Trevi, Carlos Ponce, Tito « El Bambino, » Olga Tañon and the group Aventura. Joining and singing in Spanish is Haitian American artist Wyclef Jean.
The different voices contribute lines the way 1985’s « We Are the World » was put together by an ensemble of stars. The national anthem’s familiar melody and structure are preserved, while the rhythms and instrumentation come straight out of Latin pop.
Can « The Star-Spangled Banner, » and the republic for which it stands, survive? Outrage over what’s being called « The Illegal Alien Anthem » is already building in the blogosphere and among conservative commentators.
Timed to debut the week Congress returned to debate immigration reform, with the country riven by the issue, « Nuestro Himno » is intended to be an anthem of solidarity for the movement that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to march peacefully for immigrant rights in Washington and cities across the country, says Adam Kidron, president of Urban Box Office, the New York-based entertainment company that launched the project.
« It’s the one thing everybody has in common, the aspiration to have a relationship with the United States . . . and also to express gratitude and patriotism to the United States for providing the opportunity, » says Kidron.
The song was being prepared for e-mailing as MP3 packages to scores of Latino radio stations and other media last night, and Kidron was calling for stations to play the song simultaneously at 7 Eastern time this evening.
However, the same advance buzz that drew singers to scramble for inclusion in the recording sessions this week in New York, Miami, Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has also spurred critics who say rendering the song in Spanish is a rejection of assimilation into the United States.
Even some movement supporters are puzzled by the use of Spanish.
« Even our Spanish media are saying, ‘Why are we doing this, what are you trying to do?’ » said Pedro Biaggi, the morning host with El Zol (99.1 FM), the most popular Hispanic radio station in the Washington area. « It’s not for us to be going around singing the national anthem in Spanish. . . . We don’t want to impose, we don’t own the place. . . . We want to be accepted. »
Still, Biaggi says he will play « Nuestro Himno » this morning if the song reaches the station in time. But he will talk about the language issue on the air and solicit listeners’ views. He says he accepts the producers’ explanation that the purpose is to spread the values of the anthem to a wider audience. He adds he will also play a version of « The Star-Spangled Banner » in English — as he aired the Whitney Houston version earlier this week, when the controversy was beginning to brew.
In the Spanish version, the translation of the first stanza is relatively faithful to the spirit of the original, though Kidron says the producers wanted to avoid references to bombs and rockets. Instead, there is « fierce combat. » The translation of the more obscure second stanza is almost a rewrite, with phrases such as « we are equal, we are brothers. »
An alternate version to be released next month includes a rap in English that never occurred to Francis Scott Key:
Let’s not start a war
With all these hard workers
They can’t help where they were born
« Nuestro Himno » is as fraught with controversial cultural messages as the psychedelic « Banner » Hendrix delivered at the height of the Vietnam War.
Pressed on what he was trying to say with his Woodstock performance in 1969, Hendrix replied (according to biographer Charles Cross), « We’re all Americans. . . . It was like ‘Go America!’ . . . We play it the way the air is in America today. »
Now the national anthem is being remade again according to the way the air is in America, and the people behind « Nuestro Himno » say the message once more is: We’re all Americans. It will be the lead track on an album about the immigrant experience called « Somos Americanos, » due for release May 16. One dollar from each sale will go to immigrant rights groups, including the National Capital Immigration Coalition, which organized the march on the Mall on April 10.
But critics including columnist Michelle Malkin, who coined « The Illegal Alien Anthem » nickname, say the rendition crosses a line that Hendrix never stepped over with his instrumental version. Transforming the musical idiom of « The Star-Spangled Banner » is one thing, argue the skeptics, but translating the words sends the opposite message: We are not Americans.
« I’m really appalled. . . . We are not a bilingual nation, » said George Taplin, director of the Virginia Chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, part of a national countermovement that emphasizes border control and tougher enforcement, and objects to public funding for day-laborer sites. « When people are talking about becoming a part of this country, they should assimilate to the norm that’s already here, » Taplin said. « What we’re talking about here is a sovereign nation with our ideals and our national identity, and that [anthem] is one of the icons of our nation’s identity. I believe it should be in English as it was penned. »
Yet, even in English, 61 percent of adults don’t know all the words, a recent Harris poll found.
Appealing to such symbols of national identity to plug into their profound potency is how new movements compete for space within that identity. During the rally on the Mall, the immigrants and their supporters also waved thousands of American flags and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But they didn’t translate the pledge into Spanish. They said it in English.
Juan Carlos Ruiz, the general coordinator of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, said there’s not a contradiction. The pledge was printed phonetically for Spanish speakers, and many reciting the sounds may not have understood the meaning. Putting the anthem in Spanish is a way to relay the meaning to people who haven’t learned English yet, Ruiz said.
« It’s part of the process to learn English, » not a rejection of English, he said.
While critics sketch a nightmare scenario of a Canada-like land with an anthem sung in two languages, immigrant rights advocates say they agree learning English is essential. Studies of immigrant families suggest the process is inevitable: Eighty-two percent to 90 percent of the children of immigrants prefer English.
« The first step to understanding something is to understand it in the language you understand, and then you can understand it in another language, » said Leo Chavez, director of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California at Irvine. « What this song represents at this moment is a communal shout, that the dream of America, which is represented by the song, is their dream, too. »
Since its origins as the melody to an English drinking song called « To Anacreon in Heaven, » circa 1780, « The Star-Spangled Banner » has had a long, strange trip. Key wrote the poem after watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. It became the national anthem in 1931.
At least 389 versions have been recorded, according to Allmusic.com, a quick reference used by musicologists to get a sense of what’s on the market. Now that Hendrix’s « Banner » has mellowed into classic rock, it’s hard to imagine that once some considered it disrespectful. The other recordings embrace a vast musical universe: from Duke Ellington to Dolly Parton to Tiny Tim. But musicologists cannot name another foreign-language version.
« America is a pluralistic society, but the anthem is a way that we can express our unity. If that’s done in a different language, that doesn’t seem to me personally to be a bad thing, » said Michael Blakeslee, deputy executive director of the National Association for Music Education, which is leading a National Anthem Project to highlight the song and the school bands that play it in every style, from mariachi to steel drum.
« I assume the intent is one of making a statement about ‘we are a part of this nation,’ and those are wonderful sentiments and a noble intent, » said Dan Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Benigno « Benny » Layton wonders. He’s the leader of Los Hermanos Layton, a band of conjunto- and Tejano-style musicians in Elsa, Tex., 22 miles from Mexico. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he recorded a traditional conjunto version of « The Star-Spangled Banner. » It was instrumental.
« I’m a second-generation American, » Layton said. « I love my country, and I love my [Mexican musical] heritage, and I try to keep it alive. But some things are sacred that you don’t do. And translating the national anthem is one of them. »
Staff writer Richard Harrington contributed to this report.
Poetic License Raises A Star-Spangled Debate
The New York Times
July 03, 2009
Patriotism can mean different things to different people.
On July 1, 2008, jazz singer Rene Marie, flanked by elected officials and civil servants, calmly approached the microphone before Denver’s State of the City address. She was there to perform a time-honored ritual: the singing of the national anthem.
But her arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner left residents divided. The melody was the same, but the words she chose were written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899. They belong to the song « Lift Every Voice and Sing, » also known as « The Black National Anthem. »
Marie is one of the rare artists today who invites comparison with Civil Rights-era singers Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln. Like them, her devotion to social issues has threatened her career, and raised questions about the role of the artist in society and what it means to be patriotic and African-American.
Indeed, it didn’t take long for state and local politicians to denounce Marie’s Denver performance. Some called it a disgrace.
With a little more than a month until the city hosted the Democratic National convention, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama was even asked about the incident by the now defunct Rocky Mountain News.
« If she was asked to sing the national anthem, she should have sung that, » Obama said. « ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is a beautiful song, but we only have one national anthem. »
The Power Of Words
To be clear, Marie was specifically invited to sing the national anthem. But she did not sign a contract, and she’d been performing her arrangement for several months. She says the governor and officials from the mayor’s office even heard her sing it at an earlier event.
Marie rejects the idea that dishonesty was at the center of the uproar.
« I can see why they would say it, » Marie says. « But I think if I had sung ‘America the Beautiful’ or ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ instead of the national anthem, nobody would have had anything to say about there being any dishonesty. So it’s not about that. It’s about what I sang. »
Marc Lamont Hill, one of the few news commentators sympathetic to Marie’s actions, says Marie’s Denver performance embodies black patriotism.
« It’s celebrating black progress, black hope, black pride, » Hill says. « But it’s also keenly — fundamentally, even — preoccupied with the obstacles that lay in front of us. That’s reflected not just in that moment, but in the broader political moment, where people are celebrating Barack Obama as president. People are excited that the country has moved forward — but people [are] still keenly aware that there are many, many forms of inequality, unfreedom, suffering [and] marginalization that continue to proliferate in this nation. »
The Source Of Strength
Marie was born in Virginia, a child of the Civil Rights era. All of the schools she attended were segregated. Her mother and father, both teachers, helped integrate a local lunch counter when their daughter was around 8 years old.
« At the Frost Diner — on the bypass in Warrenton, Va., which is still there — there was a sign on the door that said ‘no dogs and no n——s,' » Marie remembers. « And they went in and they were refused service, but no violent incident came about as a result. But the incident that did happen was my father lost his job. He was blackballed and never rehired to teach in the county again. »
A Jehovah’s Witness, Marie began performing professionally only when she left the church — and her marriage — at the age of 42. She had a recording contract within months.
Her compositions take on homelessness, religion and racial injustice. Her arrangement of « The Star-Spangled Banner » with « Lift Every Voice and Sing » is part of a larger suite she calls Voice of My Beautiful Country, which she has made available as a free download.
The sales of her recordings have been modest, but the response to her performance in Denver was startling: more than 1,600 e-mails. Many African-Americans were offended by her use of the national anthem; some objected to her adaptation of « Lift Every Voice and Sing. »
Other e-mails were laced with racial slurs. A handful were death threats.
« I’ve had so many e-mails, » Marie says, « some of the e-mails saying that ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ is sacred. Oh, really. Maybe it’s sacred to you. That’s fine, that’s cool. But it’s not sacred to me. The guy, the dude who wrote it, he’s a slave owner. »
Francis Scott Key was a plantation owner, and the melody, which so many consider sacred, was borrowed from an English drinking tune. In addition to the e-mails, Marie got phone calls — which she answered.
« I learned a lot, » Marie says. « And I had some really good phone calls from complete strangers. A lot didn’t expect me to answer the phone. They kind of sputtered for the first few seconds. ‘Well, I just wanted to tell you what I thought about it.’ ‘OK, tell me, I’m listening.’
« That’s when I realized you don’t have to agree, but listening sure does go a long way toward peaceful relations — when people feel they are being heard. »
And that’s all Rene Marie is really asking for.
Voir de plus:
Bush Says Anthem Should Be in English
The New York Times
April 28, 2006
President Bush said today that he thought the national anthem should be sung in English, not the Spanish language version released by a recording company recently.
The song, recorded by a chorus of Latin pop stars, is being distributed to Spanish-language radio stations to be played Monday morning to coincide with immigrant rights demonstrations that are scheduled in many cities across the nation.
Speaking to reporters in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush made it clear that he considered the language difference as part of the immigration issue.
After saying he did not consider the anthem sung in Spanish to have the same value as the anthem sung in English, Mr. Bush said: « I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English. »
Mr. Bush was responding to a question following the release today of the Spanish-language version of the song called « Nuestro Himno » or « Our Anthem. »
Adam Kidron, the British music producer who released the song, responded to Mr. Bush’s comments by saying that it was not intended « to discourage immigrants from learning English and embracing American culture, » according to The Associated Press. « We instead view `Nuestro Himno’ as a song that affords those immigrants that have not yet learned the English language the opportunity to fully understand the character of « The Star-Spangled Banner, » the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent. Mr. Bush also addressed one of the goals of Monday’s demonstrations: a show of force by immigrants who hope to demonstrate their economic power by staying home from work and boycotting stores.
« I am not a supporter of boycotts, » Mr. Bush said. « I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. »
Congress is currently wrangling over the question of how to deal with people who, though not legal residents of the country, provide vital labor in agriculture, construction and service industries.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would strengthen border security and make being in the country illegally a felony. The Senate has considered, but not yet adopted a milder approach, that would provide a path to citizenship for those who have been in the country the longest. Mr. Bush has said he prefers the Senate version.
Voir de même:
Investiture: Beyoncé a fait du playback
La chanteuse Beyoncé a affirmé aujourd’hui avoir chanté l’hymne national, lors de l’investiture du président Barack Obama, sur sa propre voix déjà enregistrée. Mais « je chanterai en direct dimanche », lors du spectacle à la mi-temps du Super Bowl dont elle est la vedette, a affirmé la chanteuse lors de la conférence de presse consacrée à la finale de la Ligue professionnelle de football américain (NFL) qui a lieu à la Nouvelle-Orléans (Louisiane, sud).
La chanteuse était soupçonnée d’avoir chanté le « Star Spangled Banner » en play-back devant les centaines de milliers de personnes présentes à Washington le 21 janvier pour l’investiture du président, après que le corps des Marines eut indiqué que son orchestre avait joué en play-back. « Je chante toujours en direct », a-t-elle affirmé, « mais je n’ai malheureusement pas pu répéter pour l’investiture avec l’orchestre (des Marines) parce que j’étais en train de répéter pour le Super Bowl ».
« Dans ces cas-là, on vous fait enregistrer une bande, au cas où il y ait un problème, j’ai donc chanté sur la bande enregistrée », a-t-elle dit. Pour montrer sa belle voix jeudi, Beyoncé a démarré son intervention lors de sa grande conférence de presse par un « Star Spangled Banner » chanté a cappella après avoir demandé à la presse de se lever.
Obama Says Flag Flap a Dirty Trick
Nov 7, 2007
ABC News’ David Wright and Sunlen Miller Report: At a town hall meeting Wednesday an Iowa voter asked Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., about the numerous emails she has received with photos purporting to show Obama « refusing » to pledge allegiance to the flag.
« You’re standing with your arms folded and Hillary’s got her hand on her heart, » she said, adding that she received so many of these emails she is sick of them.
Obama shook his head and smiled.
« This was not during the pledge of allegiance, » Obama said of the picture taken at Senator Tom Harkin’s, D-Iowa, annual steak fry and first published by Time. « A woman was singing the Star Spangled Banner when that picture was taken.
See the original photo by clicking here.
« I was taught by my grandfather that you put your hand over your heart during the pledge, but during the Star Spangled Banner, you sing! » Obama said.
ABC News has video of the event in question which can be viewed by clicking here.
Obama called the circulation of such pictures a « dirty trick » and mentioned other emails accusing him of being « a Muslim plant. »
« I have been pledging allegiance since I was a kid, » Obama said.
Obama advised his supporters who receive such emails to ignore them.
« Just tell whoever sent it, » Obama told the crowd, « they’re misinformed. »
Voir de plus:
Obama’s Flag Pin Flip-Flop?
May 14, 2008
In case you missed it, Barack Obama’s American flag lapel pin is back. How long it will stay on is anyone’s guess.
This week, after eschewing the patriotic symbol for quite some time, Obama started wearing the pin to selected events. On Tuesday, he was sans pin on the Senate floor, but then later donned it while speaking to working-class voters in Missouri during the evening. « I haven’t been making such a big deal about it. Others have. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don’t, » Obama said. « We were talking with a group of veterans yesterday. Over the last several weeks people have been handing me flag pins. I thought it was appropriate. » Asked if he will continue to wear the pin, Obama said, « If it ends up being on another suit, I might leave it one day, but it’s something that I’ve done before and I’ll certainly wear it again. »
Obama may make it sound like just a random fashion choice, but there is a large swath of Americans who take symbols like the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, and, yes, the flag in its many iterations very seriously. And, as former Clinton adviser Doug Schoen pointed out in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, these are people — mostly white working-class folk — whom Obama can ill afford to offend given his losses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The pin saga started on October 3, 2007 when a local ABC reporter asked Obama why he didn’t wear one. Instead of the standard Beltway refrain, « My patriotism speaks for itself, » Obama launched into a long explanation of his decision-making process: « The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, » Obama said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. « I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism. »
It didn’t take long for opponents and Republicans to jump on the idea that Obama wasn’t as patriotic as he could be, prompting the Illinois Senator the next day to clarify his remarks. « After a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time, » he told a crowd in Independence, Iowa. « My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart. »
The furor died down and Obama went pin-less for the better part of six months until April 15, when a veteran in a town hall meeting outside of Pittsburgh handed him a pin and asked him to wear it, which Obama did for the rest of that day. The reemergence of the pin led to a much-ridiculed question on the issue at a much-ridiculed ABC debate later that week. « I have never said that I don’t wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins, » Obama explained. « This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I’m commander-in-chief, which is going to be figuring out how we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economy better for the American people. »
Obama is not the only candidate to wear the pin intermittently. Rival Hillary Clinton is often without it. When asked she simply says, « There are many ways to show your patriotism. » The only G.O.P. candidate to wear the pin faithfully was Rudy Giuliani. Is it fair that Obama is singled out for pin scrutiny? Probably not. But it’s likely that Obama’s pin will keep sticking him until he brings some consistency to his lapels.
Voir par ailleurs:
Star Spangled Banner Myths Debunked
Jul 4, 2014
Have you ever heard that the national anthem was originally written as a drinking song? Or that its writer came up with the lyrics as he was held prisoner aboard a British ship?
This year marks the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key in 1814.
To celebrate the occasion, the Library of Congress held a symposium examining the origins of the ballad, featuring one expert who attempted to debunk many misconceptions about the patriotic tune.
MYTH ONE: “Francis Scott Key was held prisoner aboard a British ship during the Battle of Baltimore.”
Key was actually aboard an American ship during the Battle of Baltimore. He was on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with the British before the battle.
“When the battle starts they move him back to his American ship, which is fully crewed for a diplomatic mission,” Mark Clague, associate professor of Music, American Culture, and African American Studies at the University of Michigan, recounted. “The idea we have that he was sort of locked in his cell, lonely, reaching into his pocket for a scrap of paper — you don’t show up in a diplomatic mission without lots of paper to write the next treaty.”
MYTH TWO: “Francis Scott Key wrote a poem later set to music by someone else.”
Clague argued that this commonly held belief is also a myth. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was actually written by Key to the melody of “When the Warrior Returns,” Clague said, adding that Key’s initial intent was for a fast-tempo anthem, as evident by Keys’ original notes, which called for “con spirito,” which means with spirit.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” shares a very unique rhyme scheme with “The Anacreontic Song,” a popular melody at the time, Clague noted, asserting that this must have been intentional.
MYTH THREE: “The national anthem is based on a bawdy old drinking song.”
“The Anacreontic Song” was actually sung at the start of the Anacreontic Society’s meetings — a gentlemen’s club at the time. Though it was first performed at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in London, Clague claims that “It was a very fashionable restaurant. It had a ballroom that held 200 people which you could hold a two-hour symphony concert in — which was how you started a meeting of the Anacreontic Society.”
Modeling “The Star-Spangled Banner” after “The Anacreontic Song” would have been “hip and current,” at the time, according to Clague.
Following the symposium, the Library of Congress celebrated the national anthem with a concert where internationally renowned baritone Thomas Hampton preformed a set of American patriotic music, including “Yankee Doodle,” “America the Beautiful,” and of course, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Hampton’s vocals were accompanied by piano, the University of Michigan Alumni Chorus, as well as encouraged audience participation.
And the star-spangled fun is not over yet. On July 4, conductor John Williams is debuting a new arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” featuring choirs, trumpets, an orchestra and cannons on the National Mall, the Associated Press reports.
The Many Sides Of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’
January 20, 2009
The symbols of patriotism are everywhere in the nation’s capital, marking this week’s historic transition of power. Flags fly high and historic monuments gleam white in the chilly air; soon, music will flow from loudspeakers and from real musicians. It’s almost certain that, at some point, the shivering masses in attendance will be treated to a rousing rendition of « The Star Spangled Banner. » It signals the start of most sporting events, so why not a new presidential administration?
The story of Francis Scott Key’s « Star Spangled Banner » is the stuff of grade-school history books. But the song has inspired some memorable interpretations in the recent past, as each performer imbues it with a personal take on patriotism. Here are five (among many others) that stand out.
The Many Sides Of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
The Star Spangled Banner
From: Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock 1969
It’s obvious what all the fuss was about over Jimi Hendrix’s performance during the closing hours of Woodstock in August 1969. Some saw it as an update on patriotism — stars and stripes turned psychedelic — while others couldn’t even recognize the melody. Hendrix famously told talk-show host Dick Cavett that he didn’t mean any harm by it; that, in fact, he thought it was « pretty. » Many still hear in it the tragic power of bombs bursting and rockets glaring. A whole new generation experiencing another controversial war can hear the bittersweet emotion of men and women dying for their country through the tenderness of his interpretation of the melody. Musically, it was a shot heard ’round the world, as it changed « The Star-Spangled Banner » from a marching-band piece into a vehicle for solo electric guitar.
Watch Hendrix perform at Woodstock in 1969.
Artist: Jose Feliciano
The Star Spangled Banner
From: Jose Feliciano at the 1968 World Series
Jose Feliciano became a pop-music crossover hitmaker after 1968’s Feliciano, seeded with his spellbinding reworking of The Doors’ « Light My Fire, » hit the Top 5. That same year, his performance of « The Star-Spangled Banner » at the start of the fifth game of the World Series in Detroit set off a controversy. He didn’t change the words, he didn’t alter the melody, and he didn’t sing it in Spanish. But, during a time when our country was intensely divided over the Vietnam War, the « us vs. them » mentality spread to a blind Puerto Rican pop star offering a guitar-and-voice interpretation of the National Anthem. Radio stations stopped playing his records after that, and he’s said that he continues to receive negative feedback. Today, it’s hard to hear what the fuss was about: The performance was a perfect mix of folk, soul and love of country.
Watch Feliciano perform at the World Series in 1968.
Artist: Marvin Gaye
The Star Spangled Banner
From: Marvin Gave at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game
Marvin Gaye’s take on « The Star Spangled Banner » during the 1983 NBA All-Star game was a perfect example of his complicated genius. The duality of an artist capable of writing anthems to urban angst (« What’s Going On ») and to the pleasures of the flesh (« Let’s Get It On ») is magnificently reflected in a performance that made patriotism almost sensual. Consider the particulars of the performance: The NBA was experiencing probably its greatest popularity, and Marvin Gaye had just scored yet another career revival with his uber-hit « Sexual Healing. » With a slow-burning rhythm track, Gaye used every nuance of his vocal talent to bring the crowd to a rapturous celebration of our collective history. Still, there were many who found it offensive at best, a disgrace at worst. But listen to the crowd at the end. Are they cheering Gaye, or the sentiment of living in the home of the brave?
Watch Gaye perform at the 1983 NBA All-Star game.
Artist: Rene Marie
The Star Spangled Banner
From: Rene Marie at Denver’s State of the City mayoral address 2008
Last year, jazz vocalist Rene Marie was invited to perform « The Star-Spangled Banner » before the city of Denver’s State of the City mayoral address. Which is sort of what happened. Marie did indeed sing the melody we all recognize, but she inserted the words to « Lift Every Voice and Sing » into it. « Lift Every Voice, » also known as « The Negro National Anthem, » was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and then set to music by his brother, John Rosamond, in the early 1900s. It was adopted by the NAACP in 1919 and eventually became widely popular during the American civil-rights movement. Marie’s substitution set off a firestorm of controversy; the governor of Colorado called it « disrespectful. » Marie, who grew up in a segregated town, says that the arrangement is part of a larger suite incorporating various patriotic songs — all meant as her expression of love and hope for the country.
Watch Marie perform at Denver’s State of the City mayoral address in 2008.
Artist: Whitney Houston
The Star Spangled Banner
From: Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV in 1991
The 1991 Super Bowl included what should have been a routine pre-game performance by yet another talented vocalist taking on the challenge of a notoriously difficult tune. But something happened. Maybe it was the pre-song dedication to the soldiers fighting in the Gulf War, maybe it was the brilliant arrangement of the orchestra and singer, maybe it was Whitney Houston’s vocal prowess, and maybe it was the roar of the crowd as Houston worked her way through the emotions of all of the above. Whatever it was, the end result was a performance so inspirational that it was released commercially (for charity) and climbed to No. 20 on the Billboard pop charts. It was reissued 10 years later after Sept. 11, 2001, and climbed all the way to No. 6.
Watch Houston perform at the Super Bowl in 1991.
Voir par ailleurs:
Books Chapter & Verse
Why America forgets the War of 1812
Author Don Hickey discusses the reasons for the conflict and how it’s remembered by our northern neighbors.
The Christian Science monitor
June 8, 2012
Quiz time! Remember that famous movie about the War of 1812? You know, the one with that one big star and the other big star?
You don’t. No one does since there hasn’t been one. In fact, the conflict has only inspired two or three films, and those are largely forgotten. (It probably didn’t help that the 1958 one starring 12,000 extras and Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson was envisioned as a musical.)
It wasn’t that the War of 1812 lacked drama. Our nation’s capital actually got invaded, and the Battle of New Orleans actually occurred after a peace treaty has been signed thanks to the lack of rapid communication.
Even so, the war — which actually lasted from 1812-1815 — just hasn’t fired up our imaginations.
What gives? As the war reaches its bicentennial this month, I called Don Hickey, professor of history at Wayne State College in Nebraska, to ask him that question.
He’s the author of 1989’s epic « War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, » which was updated and revised for a reissue this year. Hickey talked about the reasons for the war, the way our neighbors to the north look at it (they got invaded, after all) and the reasons why we could have avoided this conflict entirely.
Q: Why don’t we remember the War of 1812 very well?
A: It’s forgotten because the causes don’t resonate much today.
We went to war to force the British to give up the removal of seamen from our ships and restrictions on our trade with Europe.
Nowadays, nobody goes to war to uphold maritime rights.
And to confuse the issues of causes, we invaded Canada.
We could not challenge Britain on the high seas, so we thought we’d conquer Canada and force concessions on the maritime front. That made it look like a land grab, and that’s the way it’s looked at north of the border.
Q: Do you think we lost the War of 1812, making it one of very few defeats for the United States in major conflicts?
A: By my count, we lost the War of 1812 and we lost Vietnam.
That’s not a widely held opinion in the United States about the War of 1812. The common view is that the war ended in a draw.
But we invaded Canada in 1812 and in 1813, and in the west in 1814, and all three invasions pretty much ended in failure. It doesn’t look like we achieved our war aims.
Q: At the time, Britain was busy with a giant conflict of its own, a war with France that made it crack down on shipping. But the war definitely concentrated minds in Canada, which got invaded. How is the war remembered in Britain and Canada?
A: Let me give you an old saw, a loose paraphrase of what a Canadian historian once said: Everybody’s happy with the outcome of the war. Americans are happy because they think they won, the Canadians are happy because they know they won and avoided being swallowed up by the United States, and the British are happiest because they’ve forgotten all about it.
He didn’t mention the biggest losers, who were the Indians.
Q: What happened to the Indians?
A: I estimate the American deaths were 20,000, the British at 10,000, and Indians at maybe 7,500, but that was a much larger proportion of their population.
They lost two decisive wars, one in the old Northwest (the area around Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin) and one in the old Southwest (mostly Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi). That really opened the door to American expansion, and they were left without any allies that they could line up with against the U.S.
Q: Other American wars in the 19th century were largely about grabbing territories. Was that the case here?
A: If you think of this as a land grab, it fits into a larger history of American expansion. But that’s not what caused this war.
Canada wasn’t the end. It was the means. The end was to force Britain to give up their maritime activities.
Q: What can we learn from this war today?
A: The importance of military preparedness.
We were woefully unprepared for this war. The Republicans were anticipating what one anti-war Republican expected would be a holiday campaign — that Canada is to conquer herself through the principles of fraternity.
Q: Sounds like something that we heard from Vice President Dick Cheney about the Iraq War, that we’d be « greeted as liberators, » right?
A: That was the view. Also, we had a huge 15-1 population advantage.
Q: What went wrong?
A: Our military establishment was woefully unprepared and there were a lot of incompetent officers. Soldiers were recent enlistees who were ill-trained and without combat experience.
We faced a formidable foe — a tough army in Canada aided by Indian allies who played a significant role in the defense of Canada — and the logistical challenges of waging war on a distant frontier.
Q: Outside of the Revolutionary War, this is the only war in which the U.S. was invaded by a foreign power. Many people know about the burning of the White House in 1814, and the first lady, Dolley Madison, is often credited with saving the portrait of George Washington. Is there anything about the invasion that we misunderstand today?
A: The popular view is that Washington D.C. was burned, but they only burned the White House, the Capitol, and the state and treasury department. We burned the Naval Yard to keep it out of their hands during our withdrawal.
That was undoubtedly the low point of the war. But it was followed a month later by one of the high points, when the British threatened Baltimore but the Royal Navy couldn’t subdue Fort McHenry. That inspired the writing of « The Star Spangled Banner. »
And then, in the last great campaign, the British were decisively defeated at New Orleans, and that was a game changer in how we remember the war.
Q: Why does this war fascinate you?
A: I was intrigued because as a graduate student, it seemed to me that it was an ill-advised war. But people in academia thought it was just ducky even though they were dead set against the war in Vietnam.
The Federalists made the anti-war argument in the 1812 era, and these modern academics regarded them as a bunch of throwbacks and elitists. That’s not true. They had a pretty coherent program of military and financial preparedness and avoiding war with Great Britain.
Q: What alternative was there to war in 1812?
A: Peace is the alternative. You don’t have to go to war.
You live with the consequences of the world war in Europe. We’re making money, we’re doing OK, and our rights are going to be encroached on by both sides. That’s life in the big city. Nobody really threatened our independence. You just wait for the war in Europe to end, and the problems go away.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor
Today the Star Spangled Banner celebrates its 200th birthday and here are a few factoids about the tune that became our national anthem.
1.The Star Spangled Banner didn’t become the national anthem until after a Mrs. Holloway and Congressman Charles Linthicum of Baltimore, Maryland spent 20 years lobbying for it to happen.
The songs “Hail Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle” were the patriotic songs following the War of 1812, but as the Civil War began, the Union troops adopted it as their song
2. It took 40 attempts to pass the bill declaring the “Star-Spangled Banner” our national anthem, before it was finally signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.
3. Like many writers, Francis Scott Key kinda plagiarized some stuff from Shakespeare…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “by spangled star-light sheen”
The Taming of the Shrew: “what stars do spangle heaven with such beauty”
4. Rosanne actually really regrets the way she sang the song that one time…
“I wish I had done it better,” said a remorseful Rosanne to Piers Morgan on CNN. “Of course, the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is a huge regret that pretty much was hard to come back from. A huge – like, you know, something probably I regret that as for my career mistakes. And in my personal life, there are about 3,000 things I regret and wish I’d done better.”
5. The line on our money “In God We Trust” is actually not from the Illuminati but instead the song’s 4th verse.
“Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’”
6. There is no 6th verse about beating people with chains and burning eyes out with flames… that was from the Onion.
7. It sat rotting in some dude’s attic for years with people taking little clippings off of it. We’re still locating fragments today.
“It was such a monumental moment in time that people felt they wanted to hold a piece of that history,” said Jennifer Jones, a curator who oversees the flag at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
8. It’s not an easy song to sing, the stakes are high, and there are a ton of people usually waiting for you to mess it up.
Watch for the 50 second mark here as Michael Bolton illustrates:
He totally pulls a Sarah Palin. In 2006 my friend Jana and I were at a women’s event on behalf of a candidate way out in somewhere Kansas. The woman hosting the event mentioned the woman who was supposed to sing the Star-Spangled Banner didn’t show up. Jana studied music and had an amazing voice. While she warmed up over a cigarette outside with the US Senate candidate at the time he wished her luck saying, “Don’t forget the words.” It happened for her on the lines “oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave.”
My favorite comedian Eddie Izzard has a few pointers if you ever have to sing it (fast forward to the 30 second mark and then the 3:30 mark):
9. The right-wing ice cream alternative to Ben & Jerry’s is called Star Spangled Ice Cream.
Once located in Arlington, Virginia, the Star Spangled Ice Cream Company offered flavers like: I hate the French Vanilla, Iraqi Road, Smaller GovernMint, and Nutty EniviroMintalist. It’s unclear if they’re still in business, as they don’t have a website or any news stories about them for the last several years. But… that’s the good old fashioned free market for ya!
BONUS: Robin Williams AS the American Flag:
|The Star-Spangled Banner (La Bannière étoilée)
|O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light||Ô, dites-moi, voyez-vous aux premières lueurs de l’aube|
|What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?||Ce que nous acclamions si fièrement aux dernières lueurs du crépuscule ?|
|Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,||Dont les larges bandes et les étoiles brillantes, que durant la bataille périlleuse,|
|O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?||Par-dessus les remparts nous regardions, flottaient si fièrement ?|
|And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air||Et l’éclat rouge des fusées, les bombes explosant dans les airs,|
|Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.||Prouvaient tout au long de la nuit que notre drapeau était toujours là.|
|O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave||Ô, dites-moi, est-ce que la bannière étoilée flotte encore|
|O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?||Sur la terre de la Liberté et la patrie des courageux ?|
|On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep||Sur nos côtes, cachées par les brumes épaisses,|
|Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,||Où les orgueilleuses armées ennemies reposent dans un silence de mort,|
|What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,||Qu’est-ce que cette brise intermittente, le long du versant,|
|As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?||Nous dévoile et nous cache ?|
|Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,||À présent elle capture l’éclat du premier rayon de soleil,|
|In full glory reflected now shines in the stream||Nous le renvoie dans toute sa gloire, maintenant elle brille dans le vent|
|Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave||C’est la bannière étoilée ! Oh puisse-t-elle longtemps flotter|
|O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.||Sur la terre de la Liberté et la patrie des courageux.|
|And where is that band who so vauntingly swore||Et où est cette horde qui jurait dédaigneusement|
|That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,||Que les foudres de la guerre et la désolation des combats|
|A home and a country should leave us no more!||Ne nous laisseraient ni terre ni patrie !|
|Their blood has washed out of their foul footsteps’ pollution.||Leur sang a purifié la terre qu’ils ont foulée.|
|No refuge could save the hireling and slave||Aucun refuge n’a pu sauver leurs mercenaires et leurs esclaves|
|From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave||De la terrible déroute et de la misère de la tombe|
|And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave||Et la bannière étoilée dans son triomphe flotte|
|O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.||Sur la terre de la Liberté et la patrie des courageux.|
|O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand||Ô ! Qu’il en soit toujours ainsi, que les hommes libres protègent|
|Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!||Leur patrie chérie des désolations de la guerre !|
|Bles’t with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land||Bénie par la victoire et la paix, que la patrie protégée par le ciel|
|Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.||Loue le Puissant qui a créé et préservé notre nation.|
|Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,||Alors nous vaincrons, car notre cause est juste,|
|And this be our motto: « In God is our trust ».||Et ce sera notre devise : « En Dieu est notre foi ».|
|And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave||Et la bannière étoilée dans son triomphe flottera|
|O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.||Sur la terre de la Liberté et la patrie des courageux.|