Struggling with the national anthem

November 20, 2017

For many years, singers everywhere have struggled to reach high notes while singing the national anthem. Being selected to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a major sporting event is an honor few are granted.

As a former member of Madera High School’s Acappella Choir, one of the performances that stands out most in my memory was the time our choir opened a Republican Women’s Conference. In our choir robes, we marched in carrying U.S. flags in a hotel ballroom in Fresno. The song is much easier to sing in four part harmony when only the sopranos have to hit those high notes. I sang tenor.

Colin Kaepernick may never play professional football again because his press agent or someone told him he could get some attention if he took a knee during the anthem. The blowback to the NFL has many longtime football fans boycotting the games.

He isn’t the first celebrity to spark a national debate regarding our nation’s song.

A few days before comedian Roseanne Barr sang the anthem at the July 25, 1990, Major League Baseball game of the San Diego Padres, she appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. She was thrilled to be invited to open the game. Carson asked her if she could sing. She broke into a chorus of “Kung Fu Fighting,” and it gave me a deep feeling of foreboding.

Carson advised she not start the song too high because when Robert Goulet sang it, he started too high and then couldn’t hit the high notes without dropping an octave mid-song.

At the time, I really admired the actress. I thought of her as a chubby brunette who played a brilliant blue-collar woman whose television show was hilarious. There weren’t many chubby brunette role models for girls at that time. After her performance at the Padres game, there was one less.

Had I known how to reach her, I would have told her she was about to commit career suicide. There are some things in this country you shouldn’t mess with and the national anthem is one of them.
When she finished butchering the anthem, she grabbed her crotch and spit in her hand to mimic the actions of pro baseball players, she said afterwards.

Even President George H.W. Bush called her performance disgraceful.

The latest controversy has the politically correct crowd demanding the song be dropped as our national anthem because the word “slave” is in the third verse of the original Frances Scott Key poem.

The verse in question reads, “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore / That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion / A home and a country should leave us no more? / Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution. / No refuge could save the hireling and slave, / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave; / And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

The poem was written in 1814 and adopted as our national anthem in 1931. For 86 years, no one noticed the third verse of the poem, a verse that no one ever sings, has the word slave in it. Civil War statues and monuments across the country are being removed and relocated because some people find them racially insensitive. The same is said about the confederate flag. They are part of our history. A shameful chapter some might say, but “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” according to philosopher George Santayana.

I find it extremely annoying when a celebrity is asked to sing the anthem at the Super Bowl and turns the performance into a torch song. Whitney Houston did it in 1991 and Cher did it in 1999. Listening to it reminds me of the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

When an ordinary person sings the song in public, in my heart I am rooting for them to hit those high notes. I also hope they remember to take a deep breath just before “O’er the land of the free,” and another one before “and the home of the brave.”


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