The “The Star-Spangled Banner” has only been America’s national anthem for 81 years, which may be surprising to those who think George Washington himself sang it around the campfire at Valley Forge.
The familiar song we hear at every sporting event started out life as a poem called “In Defence of Fort McHenry,” which was written by the lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key in1814. Key’s brother-in-law soon grafted the poem onto a nearly unsingable popular English song of the day called “The Anacreontic Song” and the result was a ballad that featured a melody with an octave-and-a-half range that has been giving singers fits and some listeners headaches since President Herbert Hoover made it official in 1931. But some feel it’s time for a change of tune, and that a more singable song should usurp our current anthem.
The challengers? Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” is a strong contender, along with “America the Beautiful” and many other songs that inspire patriotic zeal in our countrymates.
Do you think America is ready for a new theme song? What song best encapsulates America to you?
Jim Caroompas, journalist, musician and author of the article “Oh Say, Can You Sing Our National Anthem? Should We Get A New One?”