Music for the 4th, if you can hear it over the fireworks.
Daily Beast has the best and worst renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Rod Dreher has the Who up.
Wonkette has the Muppets, Bruce Springsteen and X, unfortunately not playing together.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is notoriously unsingable. A professor of music, Caldwell Titcomb of Brandeis, pointed out years ago in the New Republic that its melody spans nearly two octaves, when most people are good for one octave, max. The first eight lines are one enormous sentence with subordinate clauses, leaving no really good place to take a breath. There are far too many mandatory leaps off the high board (“. . . what so PROU-dly we hail . . .”).
The melody is lifted from an old English drinking song. The lyrics are all about bombs and war and bloodshed — and not in a good way. By the penultimate verse, the song has turned really nasty: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” In the first verse — the one we generally sing — there is only one reference to any value commonly associated with America: “land of the free.” By contrast, “home of the brave” is empty bravado. There is nothing in the American myth (let alone reality) to suggest that we are braver than anyone else.
I’ll skip the usual complaints about “The Star Spangled Banner” and jump right to the eternally popular question: If Francis Scott Key’s martial ballad were deposed as the national theme song, what would you want to replace it? Enter your suggestions in the comment thread below. You can call for as many replacements as you want — the nation survived for more than a century without a single, centralized flag design, and on the road back to that happy day of vexillological competition we might as well bring a similar system to anthems. It’s a diverse and sprawling country, and there’s room for more than one song on the soundtrack.
I’ll open the nominations with this old favorite from Johnny Cash.
Okay, we’ll bite. Or not. Some songs for you: