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The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner


by N/A

The Star-Spangled Banner Introduction

In a Nutshell

Did you ever hear Roseanne Barr's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner? 

Belted out before a game between the Padres and the Reds, Roseanne was hoping to get a laugh, but most in the crowd didn’t find the comedian very funny. Boos were pouring down before she got to the land of the free and the home of the brave, and in the days that followed, the sit-com star was blasted from sea to shining sea (oh wait, that’s a different patriotic song (***THE MODULE FOR “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL” HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND CAN BE LINKED TO HERE***)

Barr later said she was having trouble hearing herself over the sound system, but her real problem was that she forgot that, for many people, the national anthem is a "sacred" song—a powerful expression of American values that should be sung with respect and without alteration.

They may be right, but the song has not always enjoyed this iconic status. It has only been recognized as the United States' national anthem for sixty years. And while today it is sung everywhere from the Capitol to the ballpark, in the beginning it was more likely to be heard in a tavern.

About the Song

ArtistN/A Musician(s)N/A
Writer(s)Francis Scott Key (words), John Stafford Smith (music)
Learn to play: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/m/misc_traditional/star_spangled_banner_crd.htm
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
America's national anthem was written during the War of 1812, America’s “second war for independence,” by Francis Scott Key (second cousin three times removed of 20th century author F. Scott Fitzgerald of fame). British harassment of American shipping forced Americans to take a stand against the much stronger British army much earlier than was militarily prudent. And for a time, it looked as though the British would prevail (they did burn down the White House, so there’s that). But the Americans’ successful defense of Fort McHenry in 1814 helped turn the tide of the war and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would become America’s national anthem.

Initially, the song competed with other patriotic songs for center stage on holidays, but eventually “The Star-Spangled Banner” was elevated to its official status. Yet not all Americans have viewed the song in the same way. While many believe that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a sacred expression of American values and should be sung without alteration, others have taken liberties with the song’s lyrics and arrangement. One of the first to sing the song in an untraditional way was José Feliciano. His performance before the fifth game of the 1968 World Series outraged many, but others argued that his innovation was protected by the right of free speech, one of the core values represented by the national anthem.

On the Charts

While “The Star-Spangled Banner” was composed in the 1770s, written in the early 1800s, and adopted as our national anthem in 1931, it never made it onto any popular music charts until 1991, when Whitney Houston’s rendition from Super Bowl XXV made it to #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ten years later, in the wake of 9/11, Houston’s “Star-Spangled Banner” rose up the charts again, this time reaching #6. Her rendition is the only version of the song that has charted on the Billboard Hot 100 to date.

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