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Butchering the National Anthem

Feb 4, 2010, 11:20 AM EDT

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. John D. - Feb 4, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    The National Anthem should be sung/played straight – no screeching high notes, no warbleing, no wailing, no personal variations – STRAIGHT.
    It is beautiful if you hear it straight and listen to the message. I am a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. I came back, many of my friends did not. The National Anthem is a tribute to all Americans but especially to those men & women who fought and died for the country that Anthem represents.
    I cringe when I hear it butchered and so do many of those around me at the NBA games I attend. Everyone claps and cheers much louder after a straight rendition.

  2. Jon L - Feb 4, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    Sounds like a silent majority issue to me. Any body ever play hookie? Do ya think ya gotta protest to be heard? The loudest voice that would be heard around the world, would be the sound of the silent, if they collectively agreed to play hookie on the same day!! Send a warning shot out to your congressman, senator, or to whomever you wanted to tell, but follow up on the threat if they do not listen. YA WANNA BE HEARD??

  3. luvzcatzdogz - Feb 4, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    We have managed to raise a generation that not only has no manners, they have no sense of self. If they don’t know the country’s history how can they appreciate the country’s national anthem. Growing up I sang this song each day in school just after a silent morning prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. I loved going to any ball game and singing it whether with another singer or just in the room by myself. We have eliminated the prayer due to minority concerns of discrimination as well as the Pledge of Allegiance. Why not get rid of the national anthem as well. Start eliminating the things that show who we are and the country will be eliminated eventually. Imagine – The U.S broken into small countries just like Europe that constantly fight for supremacy over each other! Isn’t that why our ancestors came to the U.S. anyway. LEAVE THE ANTHEM ALONE!

  4. Mike - Feb 4, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    Hey Stoned” why don’t you take a day off and go find a local veterans cemetery. Then go spit on as many graves as you can.
    I’ll bet millions of dead GI’s would love to come back and see a
    ballgame and be the loudest guys to sing the national anthem or “God bless America.” Besides that you’re probably drunk before
    you get to the game and think the epitome of baseball is a homerun.

  5. Mike - Feb 4, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    Hi Luvcatzdogz. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I hope
    there are millions more out there who agree with you on this. From
    my standpoint the professional sports leagues should make it a firm practice to hear a practice run by all the “singers” long before each game and eliminate the ones that don’t know the words,
    or try to change the way the musical notes are written. Some, and
    we all know who they are, want to make every word into a montage of
    every kind of garbage possible.

  6. Richard - Feb 4, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    I know of a young lady that sings the National Anthem with such spirit, power and vocal perfection, everyone comes to their feet, cheering and screaming, no matter what side you are rooting for. She brings tears to the eyes of grown men, and chills up your spine. Too bad she is an unknown freshman music major at a western university, and would never be given an opportunity to audition, let alone sing at a major sports event. If she ever got the chance to sing at the Super Bowl, the place would go wild beyond belief, you would need an army to settle the crowd down. I hope one day she gets that opportunity, to wake up the sprit of the people. She has the power within her to inspire and give hope to millions, and that is something this country sorely needs.

  7. Phil - Feb 4, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    you’re not allowed to criticize the goverment, the flag, the national anthem, the leadership, or pretty much anything else
    And apparently you’d like to deny me that right here. You’re one of those people that thinks freedom of speech is wonderful so long as what I say agrees with what you believe.

  8. songs.pk - Feb 5, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    Isn’t it funny that the best indian nusic comes from pk. songs pk has more songs than what best of bollywood has to offer.

  9. Ron - Feb 5, 2010 at 2:24 AM

    I don’t question your right to criticize. I never said that. I question you wanting to live in a country you don’t like.
    Feel free to criticize. Also feel free to leave at any time and go live somewhere else. See how that works for you.

  10. Skids - Feb 5, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    He means it wasn’t supposed to be a socialist state where the government takes care of everyone who doesn’t want to work or get a job. There aren’t enough people working to pay for all you that don’t want to, George.

  11. ron - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Sorry, that was meant for Phil.

  12. george smith - Feb 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Hi everyone,
    Check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ETrr-XHBjE
    The way our national anthem should be done!

  13. topcatnyny - Feb 5, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Ron, I think you have the right perspective. It’s just three minutes – you don’t need to sing it, you just need to be respectful of it. As for God Bless America during the 7th Inning – well it kind of makes my day when 50,000 rise to sing it at Yankee Stadium. It a way for all of us that do not serve our country, pay homage to those that do.

  14. parks - Feb 5, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    You might want to re-think “This Land is Your Land” as our national anthem… It was written as a protest song, blasting the way our government at the time, the Hoover Administration, was handling (or not handling) the Depression. Woody Guthrie, who wrote the song, was known for kicking sand in the face of fat-cats. Now that I’ve said that, maybe “This Land is Your Land” is the best choice for our Natl. Anthem- especially today!

  15. Michael - Feb 5, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Heh, hot button issue – but everyone seems to agree.
    My Anthem manifesto:
    1. No “rising young stars.” The M’s banned these anthem-butchering American Idol wannabes after 9/11, and no offer the anthem only to those who will perform it as written. Yes, there will be the occasional one who will “lift our spirits,” but there are 20 more behind her who will hack those spirits to pieces. If you’ve ever seen a crowd boo an anthem singer before she sings a note because of her past transgressions, consider yourself lucky.
    2. The Star Spangled Banner is a MARCH, not a ballad. If you can’t perform it in less than one minute thirty seconds (and that includes a pause so rednecks can cheer the high note on “free”) please step aside.
    3. “America the Beautiful” is a wonderful patriotic song that should be substituted frequently (when did it become some kind of law that we have to sing a military march before sporting events?).
    4. “God Bless America” is optional, both for the team to play and the fans to observe. There is no rule or guideline in existence that says one must stand or remove their hat or cover their heart when “GBA” is played. Furthermore, because Bud Selig has mandated that this is done at the traditional time many take a bathroom break (when everyone stands for the 7th inning stretch), leaving the seating area should not be obstructed by team officials (I’m looking at you, Yankees.)
    5. There is no need for MLB to prove it’s the most patriotic of all sports. If the Dallas Frickin’ Cowboys don’t feel the need to play “God Bless America” between the 3rd and 4th quarters, why should the Pittsburgh Pirates be forced to?

  16. Bill of Chelmsford - Feb 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    On the subject of replacing the Star Spangled Banner I vote for:
    1. Arron Copland’s Fanefare for the Common Man. Ibelieve that there are no lyrics so we wouldn’t have to suffer the horrid vocal versions ofr SSB we do now.
    2. Battle Hymn of the Republic
    3. When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
    All better tunes. The latter 2 are easy to sing.

  17. Anarchist Dave - Feb 7, 2010 at 6:24 AM

    blah, blah, blah… yada, yada, yada…
    Honestly, why give rat’s *** anyway? It’s nothing more than a British pub song to which some fool (lost to history) attached Francis Scott Key’s otherwise laborious poem. There never was such a thing as a “national anthem” until the 30′s when FDR needed a bit of martial fantasy to lift the tired spirits of everone suffering under the yoke of his Worker’s Paradise.
    Don’t ever expect to see me tip my cap or utter one phrase of this state-worshiping rag while at the game. I’ll be the guy sitting glumly in his seat trying hard to tune it out while waiting for the first pitch.

  18. Motherscratcher - Feb 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    Yeah, why don’t all of you who don’t agree with Ron go live in Venezuela if you hate our country so much?

  19. Libservative - Feb 13, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    “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.”
    Ever notice how right wing patriot-types always eventually get around to this? “If you don’t think the way I do, then by gosh you can just get yourself outta here.”
    And then they proceed to make some smug point about how there are other countries who don’t allow free speech, and that’s supposed to somehow mean you shouldn’t speak your mind here.
    What’s really funny is that they don’t even see the absurdity of that position.

  20. yazmon - Feb 14, 2010 at 10:48 PM

    Actually, I’d probably like my country even better if some of the phony patriots like Ron would pack up and leave.

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