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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


It was today, September 14, 202 years ago, during the War of 1812, that Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, lawyer and key DC insider, witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British, wrote the words (not intended to be poem) specifically for a tune (British song, Anacreontic Society) on his mind, and called his text Defense of Fort M'Henry.   There are four stanzas, but Americans only barely know the first.  

The society?  Only makes you wonder what Key did in his spare time.  The song was collectively written by members of that society around 1771 (led by John Stafford Smith).  They met every two weeks to get drunk, sing songs and indulge in debauchery.

While Hail, Columbia, My Country, 'Tis of Thee (melody identical to God Save the Queen) and America the Beautiful tended to be utilized for functions, it was finally in 1931 that a congressional resolution was signed by President Herbert Hoover, recognizing The Star-Spangled Banner as our national anthem.

Recently, after 9/11, God Bless America replaced Take Me Out to the Ballgame as the seventh-inning stretch song.  While this practice is now declining, Kate Smith (left) introduction of this song in her 1938 Armistice Day radio show is one of the memorable moments in media.  Irvin Berlin "copied" this song from a Jewish novelty song two decades previously, but dredged it back up as Hitler begin to invade Europe.

More recently, Colin Kaepernick has used the national anthem as a symbol of protest, and the movement appears to be expanding.  He's the one with the giant afro, kneeling.  But this has nothing to do with song itself, which I find difficult to sing.

There are several choices for worst performance of the U.S. National Anthem.  Certainly, Roseanne Barr's performance at a 1990 San Diego Padres baseball game is way up there.  The singing was terrible, but grabbing her crotch at the end made it all that much more memorable.  Billboard has a bottom ten, and Roseanne is only #2 to Kat Deluna in 2008, at the Monday Night Football game of Dallas versus Philadelphia.  She was boo'd.

Even though she was only 11 years old then, Harper Gruzins needs to be considered for this dishonor.  A singer and composer, she deserves a second look.  You can visit her web site.

We just had an opportunity to listen to a range of national anthems because of the Rio Olympics.  USA Today ranked the top 15, and the USA got bronze.  France rated #2 and Russia #1.  Here is a 15-minute compilation of a Top Ten.
In that above Ten, #1 was what I've always admired, the La Marseillaise.  My memory probably first remembers from watching Casablanca.  Paul Henried leading the way.

Likewise, I've always thought that the Japanese national anthem Kimigayo, was particularly majestic.  Only adopted in 1999, it is usually one minute long.  Franz Eckert in 1880 had a lot to do with this almost Gregorian chant, and he applied some Wagner to create in 1902 improved harmony for the Korea anthem, Daehan jeguk Aegukga.  He died in Korea.

But back to America, some rate Maya Rudolph's as particularly entertaining, for she spoofs the best of the worst.  Maybe Whitney Houston's Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl was the absolute best.

The combined National Academy Choirs in 2006 certainly ranks up there as the best of what we think is patriotic.  And if you're wondering, Rasmussen reports that 78% of us want to keep The Star Spangled Banner as our nation anthem.  Further, 90% know the words and only 14% think it's too hard to sing.  So much for my memory and singing ability.

The only dangerous ocean storm is Typhoon Malakas, expected to attain Category 4 strength and ease between Taiwan and Naha on a track currently predicted to roll over Kyushu:


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