Is an Upgrade Needed for the USA National Anthem?

As I killed time Monday night, I flipped through the Utne Reader. There was an article on replacing the the Star Spangled Banner as the US National Anthem. The article is split into two separate articles online (article one, article two) for reasons unknown to me.

I have two complaints with the current National Anthem:

  1. It is hard to sing with a normal voice
  2. The music is not very “stirring”, if I am am expressing the idea correctly.

It is very hard for regular people to sing the song because of the higher notes required. Ed Siegal suggests the song should be played in G Major instead. He has convincing video that this would work. I can confirm I sang along with the video and I did not have any problems (any more problems with singing then usual that I have had since my voice changed in 6th grade when I stopped getting solos in chorus thus ending my professional singing future 🙂 ).

The other issue is that the Star-Spangled-Banner is not stirring enough. I feel it only because it is the anthem, not because of any intrinsic musical emotion. Compare that to the French National Anthem. Everytime I see the movie Casablanca, I am impressed by the emotional power and intensity portrayed as the French sing La Marseillaise in French (A language I do not speak or understand) drowning out the Nazis in the process..

That Brings us back to the Utne Reader. It has some other suggestions (some in jest, though the are not labeled as so).

The most likely alternatives according to Utne are:

– America the Beautiful – this is the most likely substitute and is already known by most US Citizens. The excellent Ray Charles version is the best example.

– God Bless America – Written by Irving Berlin – Has the emotional power, but it is hard to sing somewhat.

– This Land Is Your Land – Written by Woody Guthrie. His lefty leanings preclude it from being adopted, but it is still fun.

– We Shall Overcome – too generic and sad; not about the US specifically

The long short per Utne are:

– Columbia, Gem of the Ocean – a supposed one-time rival to the current anthem. I have never heard of it.

– Ashokan Farewell – Used in the big PBS Civil War documentary. Did it have lyrics?

– My Country ‘Tis of Thee – I learned this in grade. However, the US anthem will never be to the same tune of God Save the Queen.

– American Anthem by Gene Scheer

– The Battle Hymn of the Republic – It has the emotional punch. Evertime I sing it I slip with the lyrics and start singing bits of John Brown’s Body instead.

The “bringing up the rear” category per Utne:

– America – written by Neil Diamond. Well known by all.

– Don’t Tread on Me by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich

– We Are the Champions written by Freddie Mercury. I would dig seeing the Marine Corp band doing a few notes of We Will Rock You as the intro to fast brass version of We Are the Champions!

– Theme from Hawaii Five-O by Morton Stevens. Heh, if I were POTUS, I would have the Marine band at least use this in place of Ruffles and Flourishes and/or Hail to the Chief!.

– Don’t Fence Me In – by Cole Porter. I love Cole Porter’s songs. I wish he had actually been commissioned to write a National Anthem. Dang.

– Louie Louie – Heh. Imagine the stadium goers mumbling along at attention.

Here is one they must have forgotten about: America, Fuck Yeah! By Trey Parker from Team America: World Police.

My conclusion: either play The Star-Spangled Banner in G Major, switch to America, The Beautiful, or commission a medley arrangement that works in The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Lastly, replace Ruffles and Flourishes and Hail to the Chief with the Theme from Hawaii Five-O. Heh.

Update 9/20/2008: I really like this Marvin Gay version of the Star Spangled Banner (ht Phil)

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2 Responses

  1. Now that you mention it: DON’T TREAD ON ME would be a good national anthem, especially for sports events where the audience is drunk anyway!

    I need to dig that CD out and play it . . .

  2. Retro Thought:

    President Purpleslog would be okay with replacing Ruffles and Flourishes and Hail to the Chief with the old Peter Gunn Theme.

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