I’ve never like the Star Spangled Banner. For one thing, it is a lie. The flag was still there, but the fort was utterly destroyed. It wasn’t “taken” by the British … they just bombed it all the way to Bolivia then sailed off. But it was a British Naval victory embodied in an American song as an American victory.
It is militaristic and bellicose. We celebrate bombs and war and fighting and death and destruction, and all that wrapped in fake news. Actual fake news.
Then there are those later verses. The American Revolution was fought, in part, to maintain the ongoing attempt to take all the Native American lands beyond the mountains, and to maintain slavery. The British were pro-Native, anti-Slavery, so the Patriots rose up and complained. Colonial Americans who expressed a more pro British view, which was also by default a more pro-Native and anti-slavery view, were brought into the town squares and tortured, sometimes killed. Their homes were destroyed and the books or pamphlets they wrote to support their views were burned unceremoniously.
When the War of 1812 happened, which was a land grab by the US, the British offered the slaves in the American South the opportunity to leave the US, and without condition be taken away by British boats. They were offered transport to wherever they wanted to go, and if they chose, to settle in new colonies in the Caribbean (the Merkins of Trinidad) or other British colonies (the “Black Refugees” of the War of 1812). They were also given the opportunity to fight the land grabbing Americans. Many did take up that offer. More tried but their attempts thwarted. Bad things happened to those who were caught.
In the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key notes that “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” There is more than one way to take that, but it is generally considered at least an admonishment to slaves who would seek freedom with the British, if not an out and out death threat.
So, the Star Spangled Banner celebrates the same old thing that had been going on since before the end of the Revolution. Senseless bellicose jingoism in favor of human bondage. So, screw the Star Spangled Banner. I want nothing to do with it.
Then, on top of that, it sucks as a song and is hard to sing.
Well, everything is hard to sing for me, but I mean even for actual singers.
And, now we have this other thing. If you question the Star Spangled Banner, like Colin Kaepernick did, you may be subject to attacks by White Supremacists such as Donald Trump. And, if you perform it in a way that is not in line with tradition, you are despised for that.
(I quickly add, some performances of the SSB are just plain stupid, like the one by Rosanne, who herself is a big giant asshole. And, for those of you who don’t know, for years singers were famous for very often forgetting the words at major sports games, but that seems to have stopped.)
There are two versions of the SSB, however, that sound pretty darn good. Both are hated by all the usual haters, so that makes them extra good. I have them for you here.
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock:
Fergie at the2018 NBA All-Star game:
Anybody who does not like at least one of these two is not a patriot and needs to hustle on back to Communist Russia where they were born, dammit!!!