The Star Spangled Banner

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.

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