Complaints about America’s national anthem are commonplace. Somewhere along the line, probably in high school, I joined the chorus. “The national anthem is terrible and should be changed.” Then my mind was changed.*
It was in the nineteen eighties, I believe. There was an article in The New Republic in defense of the national anthem. The principle argument was that the song is unsingable by one person. The more people singing the song, the better it sounds. This makes it a perfect stand in for democracy.
I was convinced.
The problem with the national anthem is that “we” do not sing it anymore. Instead of an activity to which we can all contribute, it has become a spectator event. Yes, sometimes the performance by this or that celebrity is spectacular. But often it is not so good. Sometimes bordering on, if not outright, disrespectful and insulting.
Yesterday, The New Republic published a blog entry on The Star Spangled Banner with links to a couple of articles on why it should not be the national anthem. I guess the author did not search far enough back into the archives to find the article that changed my mind. Also to be found at the website of The New Republic is a video slideshow of good and bad performances and attempted performances of The Star Spangled Banner.
The ninth video in that slideshow is of Steven Tyler singing the anthem at the Indy 500 in 2001. The caption reads:
Unable to remember “the home of the brave,” Tyler replaced it with “the home of the Indianapolis 500.
But watching the video, I don’t believe for a moment that Tyler forgot the last word of the song. He intentionally substituted the lyrics and paused for dramatic effect.
*What do you know? I guess I’m not so close minded as I thought.