The Star-Spangled Banner is still NOT a love song

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You know, the internet is an amazing thing.  4-1/2 years ago, I started this blog and I didn't know what it would become.  Something I certainly didn't believe is that some of my entries would be so good that I would wish to refer to them repeatedly.  But I am proud of my work, and I am not ashamed of it.  Turns out, there are lots of posts I read and re-read.

The well-intentioned folks within Journal Communications have been upgrading, updating and generally fiddling with the servers and blogging software along the way, and some of my 2007 stuff seemed to have vanished into thin air.  I was disappointed that my Star Spangled Banner entry seemed to be gone forever.

Well, the Internet Wayback Machine has changed all that!

I'd used this tool occasionally, if for no other reason than to compare what certain sites looked like in the good ol' days.  But with yesterday's 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I thought this would be a good time to find it... and SUCCESS.  Below I've copy-and-pasted the entire post and made no corrections for spelling and grammar...

SUNDAY, April 15, 2007, 9:28 a.m.

The Star-Spangled Banner is NOT a love song

Saturday night, I attended the Bucks game with my family. Besides the fact that the Bucks are a horrible team with no depth, I was looking forward to the evening out. Until we rose (and gentlemen remove your caps) for the National Anthem.

Proceeding to the center circle was Joy Bach, who, by the end of the first line, had rendered the Anthem meaningless. “The Star Spangled Banner” is a war song… not a love song. It reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons where Bleeding Gums Murphy is singing the National Anthem at a baseball game (the Dancin’ Homer episode, and there is a digital clock in the background. He starts singing at 7:30, and finishes up at 7:56.)

Ms. Bach may be a fine singer, and Lord knows that I am not a judge of singing talent. But the problem lies with whoever told her that a war song has to cover that many octaves, and has to stretch out past the television commercials.

Let’s take a quick lesson, shall we? We need to break down “The Star Spangled Banner”. When I bring up the subject with friends, I get the feeling that everybody sings the Anthem by rote, but never actually consider what message that Frances Scott Key was trying to convey. The actual name of the poem for which the Anthem is derived is called "Defence of Fort McHenry" . The prelude to the poem is as follows…

“The annexed song was composed under the following circumstances – A gentleman had left Baltimore, in a flag of truce for the purpose of getting released from the British fleet, a friend of his who had been captured at Marlborough, - He went as far as the mouth of the Patuxent, and was not permitted to return, lest the intended attack on Baltimore should be disclosed. He was therefore brought up to the Bay to the mouth of the Patapsco, where the flag vessel was kept under the guns of the frigate, and he was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which the Admiral had boasted that he would carry in a few hours, and that the city must fall. He watched the flag at the Fort through the whole day with an anxiety that can be better felt than described, until the night prevented him from seeing it. In the night he watched the Bomb Shells, (sic) and at early dawn his eye was again greeted by the proudly waving flag of his country.”

In other words, the author and another American was forced to watch a battle in which the opposing Admiral had considered a cinch to win. The next morning, Fort McHenry was still in American hands.

That prelude actually sums up the song better than I can, but let me try to break down the actual words into even simpler thoughts…

“O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light? What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,”

Translation – We saw the American flag last night, is it still there in the morning?

”Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”

Translation - Last night, the flag was flying proudly.

”And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;”

Translation – It was dark, but the light from the ammunition still lets us see that the American flag was still flying.

”O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Translation – Reprising the first line, it is now morning, can you see the American Flag? Has Baltimore fallen?”

Ok, now I have re-typed the entire prelude to the poem, and broke down each line. Can anybody point out to me how the Star-Spangled Banner became a love song?

Please, everybody, the next time you are at a sporting event and it is time to sing the National Anthem, remember this blog entry. Stand proudly. Remove your cap. Stand still, with your hand over your heart. Remember that your country is at war now, and keeping in mind the words of the Anthem, have faith that your soldiers that defended Fort McHenry in 1814 have inspired the 2007 soldiers to perform their duties to victory.

Since the time I wrote this, I have revisited this (and posted the thoughts of others).  Baseball sportswriter Joe Posnanski has also revisited a previous entry of his.

I must give props, first of all, for a brilliant rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner done before the Chicago Bears game by Jim Cornelison...

(Side note; this is almost on par with Wayne Messmer's National Anthem done at the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, held shortly after the beginning of the first Gulf War)

But with the good comes the bad.

During Sunday afternoon, I watched the Brewers game, and as is the Sunday custom the TV broadcast stayed with the 7th Inning Stretch (where they play the horrible Martina McBride version of "God Bless America")... and this is one of the times where I just don't thing the Brewers get it, because there she was again.  Its bad enough that we're subject to a bad recording on a normal Sunday. But on this - the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, you can't tell me that there wasn't one military, police department or fire department band, singer or choir that could have performed on this special day?  Unforgivable. (Side note; Each opening day, Joe Attanasio [father of the Brewers owner] sings the National Anthem.  It is not very good.  But it is far better than many of the alternatives.  Anybody associated with the police or fire departments - or any veteran - should have been singing God Bless America. Any person from any of those groups would have been more appropriate than Martina.)

Then ESPN has to top that with a train-wreck rendition from Fergie before the first Monday Night Football game.

For each of you who like to call themselves patriotic, its time to get our voices heard.  Time to chuck "pretty" versions of patriotic songs, time to rid ourselves of top entertainers taking prime network real estate in some misguided display of supporting a cause (or in Fergie's case, the fact that she is part of the Miami Dolphins ownership group).

If you agree with me, do more than just nodding to your laptop screen.

But first, watch Ronan Tynan for what God Bless America should sound like.

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