Too Many Critics

This past week Luke Bryan sang the Star Spangled Banner in front of millions during the All Star Baseball game in Kansas City. Take a look at a clip of him singing below.

Word has it, and he has confessed, that he looked at the words on his hand as well as his watch. Why? Well, because there is a lot of pressure on celebrities when they sing the National Anthem in the United States. It seems someone always has a problem with whomever is singing.

Mr. Bryan wanted to make sure that he didn’t mess up on the words. He also had to keep on pace so that the fly-over would be at the correct time. Again, a lot of pressure.

My question for Americans is: “Do you know the Star Spangled Banner by memory?” Could you really stand and sing it in front of ONE person without messing up? What about millions?

Yes, people say that celebrities should know the national anthem before they sing it at a large event. However, I say EVERYONE should know it AT ALL TIMES!

Take a look the video below from the England vs Slovenia (soccer) game in the 2010 World Cup.

EVERYONE in the stands sings their national anthem for BOTH countries. They are not standing and watching ONE person sing and then criticize them. Where did the United States go wrong?

Read what Clark Merrefield wrote in 2011 after Christina Aguilera flubbed the words at the 2011 Super Bowl.

Like “In God We Trust” on our currency, the Star Spangled Banner feels as old as the Republic, but its status as the national anthem is a relative new phenomenon. Francis Scott Key’s most famous writing, composed in 1814 as a poem called “Defence of Fort McHenry,” didn’t gain major traction until the Civil War, when it was played extensively by military bands. It lived on in the hearts and voices of soldiers after the war, some who lived until the early 1900s. By 1918 it was played for the first time at a baseball game, starting the modern tradition linking the song to sporting events, and in 1931 Congress declared it the nation’s anthem.

“Most people even today don’t really realize the song was written about a real flag and a real incident,” says Lonn Taylor, co-author of The Star-Spangled Banner: The Making of an American Icon and a former curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “We did an exhibit at the Museum of American History on the preservation of the star spangled banner and we had this huge flag—it’s the size of a basketball court laid out flat—and big labels telling everyone what it was and we did an audience exit survey and half the people coming out thought they were looking at a flag made by Betsy Ross.”

So how many people, including those who sneered at Aguilera, can even recite the lyrics? I wound up putting the challenge to 73 adults, ranging in age from 19 to 80. Total number who claimed their $10 prize? Eight. As in, 11 percent.

ELEVEN PERCENT! 11%! 11 out of 100!

No matter how you put it, it’s sad. Why do we stand around and watch only one person (or sometimes a group) sing our national anthem? Why are we not like other countries and EVERYONE sing it?

I guess the main point I’m making is, don’t be a critic unless you are willing to stand up and sing our national anthem in front of just one person WITHOUT looking at the words.

You can see the original poem written by Francis Scott Key here.

sidenote: How many of you knew the author? I did without looking. I also know the words without looking. I’m proud to be an American and strive to know the words to all our patriotic songs

About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
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3 Responses to Too Many Critics

  1. Pat says:

    Our national anthem means a lot to me. In 1949 my parents escaped China with 2 small infants (they lived there for 3 years to be near my father’s mother after they were married). In 2000, I visited China for the first time and when I returned to the US, I could have kissed the ground. Now when I hear the national anthem, it gets me pretty choked up. Every year, my self contained high school students memorized the national anthem (my lower ability students practiced copying it while the others memorized it). In fact, they were proud of the fact that they knew it when the “regular” kids didn’t. They also learned the etiquette that goes along with it. 30 years later, I have some of them come up to me and let me know that they still can sing along when it is played. Great post!

  2. While I love the history of the song, I am not a big fan of nationalism. The national anthem, pledge of allegiance, and other symbols nations use to foster loyalty are in my opinion more about propaganda than anything. History shows us that governments who are supposed to work for the people always manage to make the people work for them (until overthrown where the cycle begins again.)

    I think it is time to stop thinking nationally and start focusing on the people without regard to artificially created borders.

    I also have reservations as a Christian about the idolization of our country, but that is a much bigger conversation.

  3. Sarah says:

    I come from England and find it fascinating that only one person sings the National Anthem in America; I never knew that. Do you never have times you all sing it together? It would be interesting to do your experiment over here but I would be surprised if the number was as low.

    When I was a child, if ever “God Save the Queen” was played we were expected to stand to attention and sing. We therefore knew it pretty well! I don’t think things are so strict nowadays, mind you, and we too have lots of uproar in the news if a footballer doesn’t seem to be mouthing the correct football (soccer) games.

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