Unquestionably, the "Star Spangled Banner" is a marvelous patriotic poem written by Francis Scott Key as he watched the British bombarding Fort McHenry through the night. Then early next morning, he saw the flag was still there.
The problem is our national anthem is almost impossible to sing, even for many pros.
What America needs is a national anthem that all of us can belt out with pride. Not one that the average Joe or Joan finds impossible to sing. How many of us can reach up to that torturous high note that comes with the “land of the free?" It's too darn high. We've all seen celebs miss it. Recently a lip-synching scandal surrounded everyone's favorite, Beyonce.
Her audience became tense as the high note approached, would she or wouldn't she hit it? Whew. Then came the accusations. Did she try lip-synching the whole national anthem? It's no doubt a tough song.
A professional musician friend said the problem lies in the fact that the tune has a very wide range. That's why the song is almost always performed in the key of B flat, where the melodic range of the song is from a B flat, below middle C to a high F. Many of us cheat when approaching the high note — by switching octaves. That doesn't sound too good.
Another minus for the Star Spangled Banner is the fact that it's about a fight with our greatest ally. Over the years and more especially now in the Middle East, no country has our back like Britain does. And history tells us that back in 1812 the majority in Britain was far from enthusiastic about King George's goals in the New World.
Talking about Britain, we can't be too proud that the tune for our national anthem isn't American at all — it's actually a British drinking song. Maybe we need four or five beers to gain the courage to reach up to that torturous high note.
A recent national poll confirmed what I'm sure most of us knew in our hearts: Two out of three Americans don't know the words to our national anthem. It has three stanzas and I'm only talking about the first. And the words themselves are so hard to sing.
It's embarrassing to see Americans struggling with our anthem. They're most often visible when an American ice hockey or baseball team faces a Canadian squad. The Canadians give a full-throated effort at "Oh Canada," while the Americans at best mumble a few words of their anthem. It's very rare to see anyone try to hit that high note for the land of the “free.”
And ours doesn't have a catchy chorus, one that's easy to hum. Canadians know their song and its extremely easy to sing. Ours is written in old English, which in fact is what it is and only became our national anthem in 1931. None of us talk like the words in our national anthem.
Here are the words to the "Star Spangled Banner”: "Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light. what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous flight, o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"
It is a beautiful poem, but was never written as a song. Now think of all the wonderful songs we have at our disposal as potential national anthems.
One of the favorites has to be the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," with its great glory, glory hallelujah chorus. It has all the pomp, has connections to the North and the South and is also quite militaristic sounding, like a lot of other national anthems. Think of France and the dramatic and distinctly hummable La Marseillaise, a favorite worldwide. Then there's "America the Beautiful," a patriotic song that we can all sing.
But then we've got my All-American favorite, “God Bless America.” What a joyous song. Maybe you have to be born outside the country to realize what a great yet simple song this is.
Here's the well-known chorus that all of us can also sing:
"God Bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies,tTo the oceans white with foam. God Bless America. My home sweet home
God Bless America, My home sweet home."
Now there is a four-line introduction to this song that I have omitted, but after much consideration, “God Bless America,” is a natural for our national anthem.
Malcolm Balfour worked as a producer for the CBS affiliate in Miami, was bureau chief of Reuters in Miami, and then became an article editor at the National Enquirer in the 1970s. He was a New York Post Florida correspondent for 27 years and worked as a freelance for numerous popular publications and television shows, from "Entertainment Tonight" and "Inside Edition" to "Hard Copy"and "Good Morning America." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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