29 April 2006

Only One National Anthem for We the People

One of the Joys of being an American Citizen is singing 'The Star Spangled Banner'!

We sing it proudly, reverently and as One Citizenry.

And because of the nature of the song it is the equivalent of the Colt 45 to the music world: it is the great Equalizer because no one can sing it WELL. That's right! We sing it proudly, magnificently and off-key, with false notes, even forgetting the words to it. And all of it is sung in the language of We the People which happens to be ENGLISH.

Frankly, wanting to change the lyrics to Spanish, change the entire content of the song and then make it about something *other* than the Battle of Fort McHenry is not only stupid, but it is asinine. And then to try and actually make it *easy to sing*... well that is an affront to all American Citizens who have to struggle with it every damn time we do so. Be it at a ball game or opening ceremony of any sort, the National Anthem is meant to be sung reverently, with care and with the sure knowledge that no matter how good the singer, it will be messed up at some point.

I remember an opera star talking about the National Anthem, and basically saying that there are only a few people on the planet who can actually reach all of the notes in the song naturally, without having to use vocal trickery. And that from a *professional* that makes a living singing the damnedest things ever made for the human voice to encompass. But at least opera was made to be *possible*.

The original "To Anacreon in Heaven" poem of 1770 was set to music and this was used as the basis for "The Star Spangled Banner", and the words scrunched to fit. By the time it was adopted as the National Anthem, most people realized that it was for the solemnity of the thing rather than its sterling song qualities. From the depths of despair to the heights of the glory of the morning, the song swings back and forth in ways that any voice has trouble with. And We the People are humbled by that song and still sing it as it makes us ALL EQUAL.

The 'People's Song'? Why, yes it is, as it is meant to be sung, in English, poorly.

Don't know English? Mouth the words as best you can, make similar noises... make it up as you go along. That is what the person next to you is most likely doing!

Tone deaf? Doesn't matter!! You can't hit the notes *anyway* so getting it on-key is the *least* of your worries.

One of the early things I remember Isaac Asimov writing about the song, and I paraphrase: 'You can't march to it. Listen to every other National Anthem and no matter how slow it is, it is still a march [this written in the mid '70's as I recall]. Try to march to "The Star Spangled Banner" and you will trip over yourself. It is not meant to be a march! And what other National Anthem asks questions? Ours is the only one that asks questions of its People. For those things alone, it is unique.'

You want a Nuestro Himno? Sing it at home.

When you sing with We the People, you sing it in English and be humbled.

We the People are humbled by the questions and the responsibilities we have.

Watch any singer at a sporting event miss a note, stumble on a word or phrase and then blink, shake their head and smile to everyone as they continue singing. They know they are amongst friends. That is what it means to be We the People.

We forgive the problems in the singing and accept the heart put into the song.

Want an easier song? I suggest you emigrate to a different country that has an easier song you can march to, and fewer rights that they graciously allow you to use. If you want to be a Citizen of the United States, you sing as We the People.

Can't be humbled by a song? Then I suggest you take your attitude elsewhere. We the People do not want those that think they should be better than the rest of Us.

For We are All Equal before this song.

2 comments:

Fish said...

I think I've heard a couple of people sing the National Anthem perfectly, Whitney Houston for example. But I don't realy know as I'm about as tone deaf as one can get. All I do know is each time I play that recording I get misty-eyed, not because of her beautiful rendition (though that helps), but because of what it stands for, what it means, for all the history, the sacrifices, the accomplishments and everything that is so right about the greatest country in the known history of the world.

A Jacksonian said...

fish - It is possible to sing the song and hit all the notes perfectly and with feeling... Whitney comes close, and she does have a great octive range and I think she even keeps the syllable count on 'banner' down. Kudos to her for it is a rarity.

And the song moves the heart even when sung poorly, so long as the heart is there.

I thank you for visiting!