The Star Mangled Banner, Musical Mess

rosie odonnel
Rosie O’Donnell, Best SSB Rendition Ever

Let me first say that I am about to mock our national anthem.  Not because I disrespect the country, I actually stand, hand over heart, during its playing at all ballgames.  (I confess that I do not sing along, because I fear my honking will get me ejected, a fate I would richly deserve).

Ok hopefully my patriot bona fides are established and my house will not get napalmed.  I do think however, that the song itself is a disaster.  I do NOT think it should be replaced, especially by the wimpy “God Bless America” with its references to waves of  foam.  The sentiments are nice but is the american cheese of  national anthems.  Also, is there anything as funny as listening to a no talent singer bungle the high notes of our National Anthem?  This alone can make the price of admission to a pro game worthwhile.  (Average bleacher seat $450).

I am not referring to the song’s martial content, which I actually applaud.  Threatening to kick uppity foreign upstarts’ fat derrieres is the main reason I can cuss out my own government in public.  No, my basis for snarky mocking is the song itself.  Both the lyrics AND the tune are, at best, in need of loads of help.

Let’s start with the music itself, which was not an original song but (according to Wikipedia) was written by a Limey named Smith.  It was written as “The Anacreontic Song”, as the theme  for a British Gentlemen’s amateur singing society.  Or so they told their wives.  I speculate that they gathered to get drunk and chase young women.  To quote Wikipedia, “the Society was dedicated to the ancient Greek poet Anacreon, who was renowned for his drinking songs and odes to love”.  So the music, on top of being un-singable, is an ode to drunkenness and getting some on the side.  In these politically correct times, can we really condone such antecedents?

Ft McHenry painting
Ft McHenry Subject of SSB

Then there are the lyrics.  You all know the first verse, unless you are Colin Kaepernick and his adherents, who silently hum the national anthem of Cuba during The SSB  (Sample lyrics, “To the rack and the rope with capitalist Yankee running dogs!  On Fidel, on Che, on to Marxist nirvana!   Starvation and torture for all!!)

The first verse is truly a mess, something like a Bob Dylan song except less comprehensible.  We can only vaguely figure out what is going on because we have heard it zillion times.

For the .0000073% of the population who has ever even READ the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th stanzas, I recommend a few tabs of acid first.  Only then could you possibly guess as to what F. S. Key was being poetical about.

Here is a few lines of the second verse, if you can figure out what the hell Key meant, you  have a  far superior intellect than I.   (Granted that this is not a particularly high standard of measure)

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Or how about these pithy licks, now held to be racist due to the use of the word slave?

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave (editors note:  should read enslaved person)
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

There you have it, our national anthem.  I love it, but let’s face it.  Not exactly on a par with songs like Satisfaction or Layla, or even Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.  Anyone want to see if we can get the Lyrics to work with “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen?

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