Face it, our National Anthem (“The Star Spangled Banner,” for those of you educated in government schools) is just hard to sing.
The range of notes spans 1.5 octaves, which is about all the average human can do. But even then, your ability to sing it well depends on the key, and the midpoint of your range.
For all practical purposes, nobody in America — not one person — can actually sing the national anthem in a way that others want to hear. That’s why we all sing it together — to drown out the horrid screeching and croaking, and to make ourselves feel better about our middling talents.
So rather than sustain this incessant assault on our self-esteem, I think it’s time we pick a new National Anthem. And before you protest about tradition or law, let me also suggest that the National Anthem has become a cultural anachronism.
Written by a white guy, held prisoner on a ship by other white guys, the words ramble on and on about a piece of fabric, and some war somewhere fought over something. But nobody knows what it means. Francis Scott Key’s poem, later put to music, isn’t even called “The Star Spangled Banner,” but “Defense of Fort McHenry.” I’m sure that’s in every Kindle at the Army War College.
There’s a difference between antique and vintage. The latter is cool. There’s a difference between old school and old timey. The former is cool. Our National Anthem is antique and old timey.
And one last thing. The song starts with a question (“O, say can you see?”) , and we never get the answer — at least not in the only verse that anyone has memorized. Everyone who’s ever watched a sit-com knows that you have to resolve the conflict in 22 minutes or less.
(SPOILER ALERT: Three additional verses of Key’s original poem all indicate that the flag still waved above the fort after sunrise. BTW, the British troops went back home and we got to keep our country. I’m sorry if you hadn’t heard about that yet. I warned you.)
For all of those reasons, and Roseanne Barr, I propose we change the National Anthem, and offer two possible alternatives.
First, I suggest James Brown’s “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing” (see video below). I think the dancin’ jam and sax solo in the middle will be particularly popular at ball parks and middle school classrooms. I recently read an article speculating on why there aren’t more Black libertarians. IMHO, it’s because folks haven’t heard this song enough. So, here’s my #1 option.
However, if you’re uncomfortable with the fact that James Brown does want you to give him something — schools and better books, and to open the door — then I propose an alternative, also from Mr. Brown.
“America is My Home,” (video below) says, in part…
“I’m sorry for the man, who don’t love this land.”
“America is still the best country, without a doubt. And if anybody says it ain’t, you just try to put ’em out. They ain’t goin’ nowhere. You gotta good fight.”
“Name me any other country, you can start as a shoeshine boy, and shake hands with the president.”
That’s the spirit. And you don’t even need to sing to join in this National Anthem.