Stop Ruining Our National Anthem: It’s Not a Rock Song

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I have a suggestion for organizers of the Super Bowl and other major sporting events: stop asking these self-absorbed, musically challenged vocal celebrities to sing our National Anthem. I don’t know about others, but I am tired of hearing the Star Spangled Banner disrespected by being performed as a rap, country, soul, pop, or rock song. Granted, the song composed by Francis Scott Key is difficult to sing. To sing the Anthem properly requires more range than most vocalists can manage. Consequently, those invited to sing our National Anthem at the Super Bowl and other sports events tend to compensate for their lack of vocal range by adding style. Let me state here and now, clearly and unequivocally that the Star Spangled Banner was not written to be stylistically interpreted. It should be performed the way it was written. What should be brought to the performance by the vocal artist is dignity, respect, and an appropriate sense of reverence.

Apparently I am not the only American who is tired of hearing the Star Spangled Banner interpreted. I recently received one of those emails that circulates from time to time that contained comments on this issue made by a Marine Colonel deployed to Afghanistan. The Colonel said: “…I give this one piece of advice to the next pop star who is asked to sing the National Anthem at a sporting event: save the vocal gymnastics and the physical gyrations for your concerts. Just sing this song the way you were taught to sing it in kindergarten—straight up, no styling. Sing it with the constant awareness that that there are soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines watching you from bases and outposts all over the world. Don’t make them cringe with your self-centered ego gratification. Sing it as if you are standing before a row of 86-year-old WWII vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and flag pins on their cardigans and you want them to be proud of you for honoring them and the country they love—not because you want them to think you are a superstar musician. Sing the Star Spangled Banner with the courtesy and humility that tells the audience it’s about America, not about you.” Thank you Colonel. I could not have said it better. Semper Fi.
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