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Butchering the National Anthem

Feb 4, 2010, 11:20 AM EST

American Flag.jpgI’m not a fanatic about it — I think some of the more unique interpretations of the National Anthem are kinda neat — but MLB.com’s Mike Bauman has a point:

“The Star-Spangled Banner” has been trivialized, tortured and
trampled upon at ballparks throughout America. Obviously, there are
completely acceptable renditions of the anthem sung before baseball
games, but too many alleged singers, given the privilege of singing the
national anthem, are acting like they are singing torch songs in a
lounge.
They are singing painfully elongated versions of the anthem,
in which the meaning of the song is distorted, warped, lost. All that
remains is these people trying to impress the world with their vocal
chops.

From a purely musical perspective “The Star Spangled Banner” is kind of an awful song. It ranges up and down and all over the place and its lyrics and phrasings are awkward to sing. In light of that, I can see why some people are tempted to do weird things to it.

But I gotta say, if ballparks decided to completely dispense with live, sung versions of the thing and went with, I dunno, recordings or small military bands or something, I’d be just fine with it.

At least until a Congress with common sense comes along and makes “America the Beautiful” our National Anthem. Much, much better song.

  1. Ron - Feb 4, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Just to point out, some of us actually like the National Anthem, because of what it signifies and not becuase of any jingoistic agenda.
    And I don’t have a problem with it being played before public events. The ones who do have an issue with it are the ones who can’t take 3 minutes of their day and be thankful for what they have, and the country they live in.
    Believe it or not, it is actually okay to shut the hell up, turn off your cell phone, take off your hat, and be respectuful of something. It doesn’t make you political, it doesn’t make you an activist, and it doesn’t make a statement.
    It just means you understand what surrounds you on a daily basis. If you don’t like it, feel free to go live in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. I have. It’s much nicer at home.

  2. ralf - Feb 4, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Our national anthem should be “This Land is Your Land.” Easy to sing, easy to play on any instrument, with lyrics about the country itself and what we are supposed to stand for, rather than about a flag and a war that hardly anyone knows anything about.
    The Star-Spangled Banner only sounds good when performed by children’s choirs or marching bands.
    I’m sure most of you know this, but for those who don’t: the SSB was performed at baseball games during WWI but wasn’t yet the official national anthem. (We didn’t have one.) The fact that it had become a baseball tradition was a big factor in the decision to make it the official anthem in the 30’s.

  3. Ron - Feb 4, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Also, it’s the National Anthem, not a vocal competition. That’s why everyone is always invited to sing along. It’s not about the song, its about what it represents.
    The disdain for the National Anthem says a lot more about the people who have an issue with it, then it actually says about the song itself.

  4. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Somebody posted a church organ version of Nothing Else Matters, so Mariano I’m sure can retain his Metallica entrance, only with the dulcet sounds of a pipe organ.

    Umm, Enter Sandman is his entrance music, not Nothing Else Matters. However, a rendition from an organ for either would be fun to hear.

  5. BC - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Or a Muzak version…

  6. Curious George - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Okay, not an organ. How about cellos?
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSMXMv0noY4

  7. Simon DelMonte - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Craig, I just love your tags – Bleeding Gums Murphy and Khaaaaan! on the same day.
    Agree with you about America the Beautiful, too. SSB is hard to sing and a rather mediocre poem inspired by a rather minor battle in a rather odd war.

  8. BC - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Better yet, how about kazoos?
    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=23155705

  9. raynman - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    tbliggins- no connection between sports and patriotism
    the connection is a reminder that you are in america where people with very little intelligence can play games for enormous amounts of money and have no accountability for anything. Add to that there are other people with some intelligence who are allowed to not use it and pay exhorbitant ticket prices to go to the games and foster the salaries. It’s a reminder that you are in america where you are FREE to maybe waste some of your money and maybe act like a jerk where you are rooting for your team and you are still FREE at the end of the day. The players that lose won’t be shot
    in a bar if they made a mistake, or disappear in a government car.
    thats the connection.

  10. Megary - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
    Near the relief office – I see my people
    And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
    If this land’s still made for you and me.
    W. Guthrie
    ———-
    Actually, if we are going Woody Guthrie, I’d suggest “Riding In My Car”. Not because it has anything to do with patriotism, but because how cool it would be to hear everyone make the Brrm Brrm noises.

  11. Bill Horan - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    I could not possibly disagree more with Craig’s comments about the National Anthem. The song recalls a time when we were a small, fledgling nation struggling to survive. A time when we were humble, and the flag gave us hope and pride in a vast tomorrow – a tomorrow that has seen that small, struggling nation survive and flourish beyond any of the founding father’s wildest expectations.
    Travel log songs like America the Beautiful are all fine and well, but beautiful travel log songs that dwell only on the natural beauty of a place do little to give one pride in what it means to be an American (I’ll bet great travel log songs couyld be written about Angola, Yemen and Sudan, forthat matter). Is being an American just all about living in a pretty place? Not to me.
    Bill H.

  12. moreflagsmorefun - Feb 4, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Let Roseanne sing the National Anthem at ALL the games, I love watching her grab her crotch, I wonder if she can burp and hold
    a beer can at the same time. Craig, see what you can do, you have alot of time.

  13. okobojicat - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    All that is true.
    But why the hell are we playing the national anthem before baseball games? What does any of the stuff you mentioned have to do with hitting, catching, or throwing a baseball?
    What about the fact that about 1/2 the players in the game aren’t even Americans?!! If you want to turn a something that can be beautiful into something dull and over-exposed, play it 10,000 times a summer.

  14. Phil - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Go read the lyrics to America the Beautiful here. You’ll find it’s every bit as jingoistic as The Star Spangled Banner.
    The song recalls a time when we were a small, fledgling nation struggling to survive. A time when we were humble, and the flag gave us hope and pride in a vast tomorrow – a tomorrow that has seen that small, struggling nation survive and flourish beyond any of the founding father’s wildest expectations.
    A small,; fledgling nation stealing land from the original inhabitants, importing slaves to work that land and instituting a de facto policy of genocide to deal with those former inhabitants when they objected to our pilfering. Just so we could grow up to use a quarter of the globe’s natural resources while comprising less than 5% of it’s population. Now that’s the stuff to make one proud.

  15. BC - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    I liked the kazoo idea better. Or cellos. Or maybe both.

  16. Ron - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    “A small,; fledgling nation stealing land from the original inhabitants, importing slaves to work that land and instituting a de facto policy of genocide to deal with those former inhabitants when they objected to our pilfering. Just so we could grow up to use a quarter of the globe’s natural resources while comprising less than 5% of it’s population. Now that’s the stuff to make one proud.”
    YOu’ve just described every country in the history of the planet.
    What’s your point? We did what everyone else did? And how do you think the “original inhabitants” got the land in the first place?

  17. Phil - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    YOu’ve just described every country in the history of the planet.
    Even if this was remotely true, how is that absolution for our behavior? My point is to object to a misty-eyed romanticism that holds this country, its origins and history to be something noble and exemplary rather than the tawdry reality that more accurately describes 18th and 19th century America.

  18. BC - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    Aw the heck with it. Let’s just invade Canada. Their anthem is either to sing, sounds better in French than ours, and their beer is better.

  19. Francis Scott Key - Feb 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Don’t be dissing my song! Don’t you realize I almost got my head blown off by those @##%!$#$! busting bombs while I was writing it?
    Some thanks I get. Sheesh.

  20. willmose - Feb 4, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Why sing it at all? MLB went nearly 70 years without singing it.

  21. The Common Man - Feb 4, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    I believe you mean your poem, Franky. The music is “The Anacreontic Song.” Your brother-in-law set it to song.

  22. Ron - Feb 4, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    I don’t need absolution from anyone’s behavior. I’m perfectly comfortable with the history of the country. There were bad things done, sure, and there were good things done.
    And it’s not ‘misty-eyed romanticisim’, it’s called respect for the history of the country and those who got us here.
    If you don’t like the country, then leave. Why do you live in a country you dislike so much? There are plenty of places that would take you.
    Venezuela, North Korea, Angola, Belarus, etc. Of course, in those countries, you’re not allowed to criticize the goverment, the flag, the national anthem, the leadership, or pretty much anything else without spending time in jail. But you don’t have to suffer the pains of all the freedoms that Americans have.

  23. CFD Guy - Feb 4, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    I am responsible for procuring talent to sing the National Anthem prior to each day’s rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days. I tell the singers to leave out all the inflections and sing it tradionally, to what I’m sure you all understand is a very tradional, conservative crowd.

  24. Pimpin' Pete - Feb 4, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Lt. Frank Drebin, aka Enrico Palazzo should sing the anthem before every game.

  25. PAUL H - Feb 4, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Doug Allen, Buffalo Sabres. Fantastic anthem singer!!!!

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