Bombs Away!



One of the great  enigmas of  America's ethos is a national anthem that very few people can easily sing.  When Congress voted  in 1931  to officially make The Star-Spangled Banner our national anthem, I doubt very many  of those senators or representatives   could sing it on key.  The fact that a lawyer named  Francis Scott Key wrote the words to it can almost be considered an oxymoron. It is a dreadfully  formidable  tune to carry.

And the lyrics, despite their familiarity, do not  fall---to use a phrase of  Hamlet's ---trippingly off the tongue.  Just ask Lauren Alaina or Christine Aguilera, the latest celebrated singers who couldn't quite  negotiate them. Mercifully, we only have to sing the first stanza of the original poem.

The backstory of our national anthem is well-known. Mr. Key was an eyewitness--- during the War of 1812---  of the British  bombing  of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor.  Inspired by the  sight of Old Glory still intact the following morning, he penned the immortal albeit tortuous  words that his brother later  suggested he set to the music of The Anacreonic Song, the signature  song of a society of British musicians.  Members of the so-called Anacreon Society often used the song as a sobriety test. According to the website Scrutiny "If you could sing a stanza of the notoriously difficult melody and  stay on key you were sober enough for another round."

I'll drink to that!









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