Letters to the Editor

Time to trade in national anthem

The letter from Alan Sipe ("Anthem should be sung with dignity," Feb. 10) regarding the "Star Spangled Banner" commits an error common to most Americans. He said: "I am sure that [Francis Scott Key] expected it to be sung with respect and dignity as the national anthem of the United States."

Key did not write a song. He wrote a poem, a poem which was changed by others to the musical version we now know. He had nothing to do with the music that was written more than 40 years earlier as "To Anacreon in Heaven." It is an old English drinking song with no historical or traditional significance to this country.

The song as we know it has been our national anthem for only the last 80 years. Prior to that, it was a popular patriotic song on a par with "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail, Columbia" (another British rip-off).

The problem is not with the artists who are performing the anthem. The problem is that the national anthem is a musical atrocity, incapable of being sung by a normal person. Most singers, trained and untrained, are powerless to conquer its impossible range. One is hard pressed to find any musician, singer or other performer who can find any kind words for it. It is no surprise therefore when untrained rock and country singers find ways to avoid the impossible passages and improvise by adding notes, changing tempo, etc.

It is time for us to get rid of this musical abortion and replace it with music that is both native to our country and capable of being played/sung by everyone. We have other songs to select. Would you rather have this abomination or the beautiful words and music of "America the Beautiful," a song that can be sung with devotion and reverence? If you want something rousing, how about "God Bless America"? You want a march? Try the "Stars and Stripes Forever." These are musical pieces with which everyone can identify; songs identified with the United States.

Don't shoot the messenger. The performer only performs what is given them. In this case, what is given should be returned as quickly as a Christmas tie. It's time we acknowledged that Congress made a mistake in 1931 and adopt a real American anthem.

The writer lives in Little River.

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