SPORTS NEEDS A NEW ANTHEM
I realize I am like a broken record. Since I have written many columns on why I feel we should have a new National Anthem. In fact, in 1969, with the backing of many top singers headed up by Andy Williams, I put together a petition of 30,000 signatures to change the Star Spangled Banner to a more singable, musically correct composition which words and lyrics made more sense.
Thanks to the late “Tip” O’Neill, at the time Speaker of the House, it got to congress. It never came to a vote. In this column, I once again plead my case. Especially, since this past 4thj of July weekend with so many personalities singing the song on both radio and TV. Much of what I heard was grating to my ears… not unlike fingernails on a chalk board.
Understand, I am a veteran from the Korean era and I truly love my country. However, whenever I was responsible for working with a performer who had been asked to sing at Halftime of a Football Game, the Opening of a baseball game, or any public event for that matter, my artists would sing either the more manageable “America the Beautiful, or God Bless America”.
As I write further, my explanation should accurately explain how deeply I feel. First, let’s look at the history of the Song.
Although it was penned during the War of 1812, it became our National Anthem in 1931, four months before I was born. Yet, when I attended Elementary School, we continued to sing “God Save the King Queen).
It wasn’t until I reached the 5th grade, did my school change over from the British Anthem to the Star Spangled Banner, which had been British Soldiers’ Drinking Song. After the Battle for Fort McHenry in Baltimore when he saw that our flag, though tattered and torn, was still standing, Frances Scott Key was inspired to put new lyrics to the bawdy tune.
Here are three that I believe art solid reasons why we should change!
1) The lyrics are almost impossible to sing. Especially when you the word “free” is almost out of reach. Listening to most celebrated singers, or for that matter any singer, it’s like they are begging to have hernia... there is so much stress in straining to hit the right notes. Of course, when you heard the late Whitney Houston, the Dixie Chicks, or the reunited Destiny’s Child, you heard only beauty and the way it should be sung. Basically, an anomaly in the scheme of things.
However, if I you were personally right now to sing the Star Spangled Banner by yourself with no words to look at, or prompt you with signs, or for that matter, other people in an audience where you can emulate their lips, you will not be able to do it.
2) The lyrics are warmongering and militaristic glorifying conflict. I worked in countries all over the world… have no doubt about it, we have never been liked, but in the past, we were always respected… The Star Spangled Banner sends the wrong message.
For those who are not sports nuts, but musical nerds, the questions many times ask who will be singing the National Anthem? It is a song all wish to conquer with their own inimitable style. Most of the time, they are defeated. It is too tough to sing!
3) The words are incomprehensible. The phrases are full of half thoughts, interrupted by tangents that complete themselves four lines later. Musically, over the years it has gone back and fourth between 6/8 time and 4/4. For example, in 1983, the late Marvin Gaye transformed the anthem into kind of sexual national hearing.
It has been bastardized in so many ways. To sing it right, it is always a perilous fight which occurs daily prior to many of our country’s sports events, an all-out war between and their voice to pay homage to our nation while not embarrassing themselves. Most singers are defeated.
The lyrics are not that great and the song is really hard. I think the lyricist’s name should been Francis Scott “off” key”. To me, as an American and a veteran, the Anthem should portray our country and be easy to sing. The Star Spangled Banner is neither.
Michael Bolton, the late great Robert Goulet were among those who flubbed the lyrics. According to numerous polls, the worst rendition ever was that of Comedienne Roseanne Barr. At a San Diego Padres game in 1990, Barr had three strikes against her… number one, no voice… number two, grabbing her crotch as she reached for a high note … and number three, spitting on the pitcher’s trying to be funny and imitate many pitchers. As bad musically as the song is it deserves respect it still represents our country.
Then there are all those pop singers who attempt to change the tune by adapting the anthem to their personal style: i.e. Michael Bolton (2003), Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin (2006), Steven Tyler (2001 and back for more in 2002), Christina Aquilerra (2011) plus Josh Grobin (2009). A small part of the list of those who failed miserably.
Waiting in the wings we have two great Americana songs: America the Beautiful and Gold Bless America. Both are inspirationally beautiful songs with easy to sing lyrics and music. They both give out a message of national pride when sung before the rest of the world. The message we need to portray, today more than ever. The Renditions of “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles and “God Bless America” by Kate Smith are classics.
Call me sometime on my cell phone! Kate Smith’s God Bless America is my Ringtone.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had an anthem that is foot-stomping and hand clapping as many of John Philip Souza’s Marches. The Marine Hymn tops my list.
I’m probably still spitting in the wind, but I hope it gives you food for thought.
GOD BLESS AMERICA AND PLAY BALL!