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In defense of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  February 9, 2011 01:44 PM

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"The Star-Spangled Banner" is hard to sing, yes, but that's beside the point. This is the nation of the 1040 and the Electoral College — maybe our national anthem should be needlessly complicated.

Anyway, as any American Idol fan knows, we may not be a nation of great singers, but we are a nation of passionate pride, and that's what our demanding anthem allows singers to demonstrate with each of its vocal twists and turns.

Not to drag our friends to the North into this, but the Canadian national anthem tells us what to feel ("true patriot love in all our sons command") while the American anthem gives us an opportunity to experience the core of that feeling ourselves.

The song’s difficulty also makes the rare, perfect performance that much more of a treasure. I remember at a minor league hockey game in Seattle when a 9-year-old girl walked shyly on the ice and belted out that anthem so beautifully, with such heart-stopping love and pride that the audience gasped.

And those who say the American anthem is about war haven't listened closely enough; yes, it's set during a War of 1812 battle, but the heart of it is about a moment of pure peace after a night of dark chaos, an overflowing of pride at seeing a flag in the dawn's light.

So if you haven't sung the anthem recently, or ever, please do. Please sing it, twice in a row, at the top of your lungs in the car, in the shower, in the yard. Don't worry if it sounds even worse than Christina Aguilera's wince-inducing Super Bowl version: another benefit of the complexity is that with such a wide range of notes, you're bound to hit at least one of them.

Globe file photo: Aerosmith singer and American Idol judge Steven Tyler sings the national anthem at the 2010 Bruins home opener.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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