To me, our National Anthem is many things: It’s the song that uniquely represents America, just as our flag is our enduring national symbol. It’ s supposed to be presented in a way that is inspiring, respectful and reverent … not rewritten as part of some here today-gone tomorrow entertainment act. If really well done, The Star Spangle Banner may bring a lump to your throat and even a tear to your eye. It is the embodiment of pride and persistence!
Last Sunday I settled down in front of my sixty inch hi-def widescreen T.V. for an evening of ear splitting, mind thumping commercials when, suddenly, a football game broke out! The exercise in excess, billed as the halftime show, featured a group of electronically wired people that resembled a short circuited pinball machine on steroids. They were named after a variety of ‘pea’, which may provide some insight as to why a lot of kids refuse to eat their vegetables.
But before any of this began, an awkward slightly bow-legged young lady perched herself in the middle of the field on a platform, and proceeded with an acoustical assault upon the above-mentioned composition by Francis Scott Key. The announcer said she had won five Grammy Awards for previous attempts at conjugating musical notes, which instantly rekindled a flood of memories about why I haven’t bothered to watch those presentations in more than twenty-five years.
I can’t imagine a bigger moment or better venue for a performer than singing our Nation Anthem in front of a worldwide audience at The Super Bowl. Nevertheless, here was this Christina Aguilera person not only messing up the melody, but focusing so hard on doing so, that she screwed up the words as well. “What so proudly we watched, at the twilight’s last streaming” was, to my knowledge, not one of the visions beheld by Mr. Key as he sat in his precariously positioned prison cell. Do they audition people for such a multi-million dollar extravaganza or simply ask for a show of hands as to who wants to do the Star Spangled Banner this year, and just pick somebody? By the way, why doesn’t EVERYONE know the words and the history behind this song?
Older folks often find fault with a lot of things that just aren’t the same anymore and I’m no exception. Change, you know? It may be the only constant we can count on but, sometimes, it’s not easy to make certain adjustments. I can put up with bigger wrappers and smaller chocolate bars, tooth jell instead of tooth paste, and cars that measure power in liters instead of cubic inches [I'm still working on those new, curly-fry light bulbs]. But when it comes to disappearing traditions, especially those affecting the texture and fabric of my country, about the best I can do is dig my heels in and say, “Enough already. Look behind you … the line is back there.”
A few years ago, I saw an old baseball movie about the minor leagues called “Long Gone”. It opened with a sort of flashy femme fatale who removed her chewing gum just before singing a nearly on-key version of our National Anthem … then placed the gum back into her mouth when she was finished and jiggled her way off the field. End act one, scene one. Even the tootsie’s rendition was more respectful. I liked it better.
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