Who Made The Star Spangled Banner The National Anthem?

and who let Christina Aguilera sing it at the Super Bowl?

There are so many pressing issues that annoy me first thing in the morning, sitting in the early morning darkness without chai. However, I realize the most pressing of the day is the national anthem debacle from the Super Bowl last night. Hey! I have no life.

The Star Spangled Banner tells a stirring story of the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British during the war of 1812. First, I would be willing to bet that 90% of citizens out there couldn’t tell me what the War of 1812 was even about if denied any kind of search engine. Second, Francis Scott Key, the author of the poem “The Defense of Fort McHenry” had his words set to an impossible tune. Key’s brother-in-law borrowed an English drinking song for the melody. Ironic since the song is about us fighting the British. The tune is called “To Anacreon in Heaven” and while it was a popular tune of its time, on this side of the pond as well as the UK, it is notoriously difficult to sing. I suppose when you look at it like the drinking song it was, it really doesn’t matter if you can hit the high notes because, well, you’re drunk and who cares anyway? Anyone who is listening to you is also drunk. Being drunk is the optimum way to sing and listen to this song.

Who do we have to thank for this train wreck being our National Anthem? President Herbert Hoover. Ah yes, Hooverville! It all makes sense now. An unpopular President, along with an unpopular Congress, makes an unpopular song choice. No wonder the Depression sucked. Also did you know the original version of this song is twice as long? Yeah.

I say we dump this song for the prettier, more encompassing, “America The Beautiful”. It’s shorter, and easier to sing. It has four verses though we usually only sing the first and the last. I say we change it. If all the reasons I’ve given aren’t enough, how about it would help avoid train wrecks like Christina Aguilera and the Super Bowl last night? Did you know this isn’t the first time she’s screwed up this song? She’s done it before where she switched two phrases and plum made up one line. Not only that, her “singing” could only be described in the literal interpretation of the act. I think dogs all over the State of Texas were howling during that screechy rendition.

It brought to mind the infamous San Diego Padres Game with Roseanne Barr when the comic, who has never professed to be a singer, caterwalled the song to the discomfort of all. If that wasn’t enough, she tried to lighten it up by grabbing her crotch and spitting like a ball player which only incited rage among fans. Hey! This is what happens when you ask a stand up comic to sing.

How about this idea? We (a) change the song and (b) stop asking pathetic pop stars/celebrities to sing at these events. How about you pick a “real person”. I’m sure there is a fan, a kid from the local high school, someone out there who could do a fantastic job without screwing up the words, hitting bad notes or giving a scenery-chewing rendition with notes so drawn out I think I’m listening to a filibuster. Can we do that? Thank you.

For you people who have forgotten what “America The Beautiful” sounds like, here is the first stanza.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Posted on February 7, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m so sick of them warbling out their throaty renditions too. Just sing the freakin song and stop trying to fancy it up with the trilling and stuff. It sounds stood and frankly I think it’s disrespectful to make up additional notes to a song.

    Didn’t we just have a boy singer flubb up the lines at another ball game recently??

  2. I thought it was an ancient Betelgeusian death anthem…

  3. “I’m sure there is a fan, a kid from the local high school, someone out there who could do a fantastic job without screwing up the words, hitting bad notes or giving a scenery-chewing rendition with notes so drawn out I think I’m listening to a filibuster. ”

    Yes. How about they call up the local high school that’s won the most choral competitions recently (yes, those exist, in my area it would have been Hayward’s Mt. Eden High School), and ask them to send their chamber choir? In return, they could buy some new equipment for the school’s music program. It would a) improve the quality of the singing dramatically, b) help a local school, and c) probably still be cheaper than whatever celebrity they would usually hire.

  4. O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
    Whose stern impassion’d stress
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness.
    America! America!
    God mend thine every flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law.

    O beautiful for heroes proved,
    In liberating strife
    Who more than self their country loved
    And mercy more than life
    America! America!
    May God thy gold refine,
    Til all success be nobleness
    And every gain divine.

    O beautiful for partriot dream
    That sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears.
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea.

    I LOVE that song. But I have to admit, as it’s basically a prayer, that it is rather more religious than the verses typically sung of The Star Spangled Banner. Of course, if you read the whole of the latter, it’s got plenty of references to God and heaven as well. So it’s hardly irreligious.

    Some people take issue with the verse about gleaming alabaster cities undimmed by human tears – I would point out the first line about the dream that sees BEYOND the years. I’ve also heard the pilgrim feet verse being criticized because it glosses over the very real problems with Native Americans. To which I will also point to the latter halves of verses 2 & 3: the bits about God mending every flaw and making it so all success is noble and every gain is divine.

    So I’m all for the switch on philosophical grounds alone. Add to that “easy to sing,” and the case gets even MORE compelling. And hell, I bet more people KNOW “America the Beautiful!” anyway. For instance, I guarantee you almost nobody can recite offhand more than the one verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but MANY people know one of the later verses of “America the Beautiful.”

  5. I’ve always preferred Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”….this is a country grown from transplanted people & his words seem to embody that! Especially poignant in these days of uncertainty and worry is the last stanza that says, in part:

    I see my people
    And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
    If this land’s still made for you and me.

  6. I’m with Viki on “This Land Is Your Land,” but “America The Beautiful” is nice too. Ah well, we needed something to distract us from the important issues of the day and Christina Aguilera (sp?) messing up the “Star Spangled Banner” is a good way to forget things that are really important right now. Right!


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