Redesigning The National Anthem

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Star-Spangled Banner is nearly as old as America itself. But how much do most Americans really know about the time-honored traditional song? The lyrics come from a poem dating back to 1814 and the music from an old British drinking song. The song wasn't officially chosen as the national anthem until 1931. Since then, some have criticized the choice, saying the lyrics are too hard to learn and the notes too high to hit.

Studio 360, a public radio program produced by WNYC and Public Radio International, is putting listeners up to the challenge of creating a new national album and redesigning Uncle Sam. We talk with Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen about the contest (currently taking place on YouTube) and the criticism he's receiving for tampering with a national, musical cornerstone.


Kurt Andersen

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja

Comments [2]

Dana Smith from Golden, CO

Why don't we change the National Seal? Why don't we change the Eagle for the Turkey that Benjiman Franklin wanted? Why don't we just change -- because it doesn't fit our current feelings -- everything about our country and forget all of those who died serving this great nation?

To me, changing the National Anthem is a disheartening concept. Sure, the lyrics aren't perfect, and yes, we know it was composed to a British drinking song, but we have to look beyond that, because no one knows that British drinking song anymore. Everyone knows the Star Spangled Banner, even if they cannot repeat the song word for word.

The song is about respect for the flag, the song is about those who fought and died for the flag -- for our great country. Every time I hear the National Anthem, I fight back tears, because America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. I think about the battles our country fought to obtain its freedom and how we can look to the flag with honor and pride because we haven’t backed down when called upon to fight. I think about my brother who served this country for over thirty years and the great pride he took in our nation and the flag that represents it. To change our anthem for something softer and easier would be to say that we can forget those who have worked, fought and died to forge this country into something to be respected and appreciated. To change our anthem would be to say we change with the prevailing winds and that there is nothing resolute about what we stand for. We need to look to our flag and see the history that it represents – and the Star Spangled Banner offers us that look.

Change is easy. Change your hair style, change the oil in your car, change the color of your house, but do not change our National Anthem.

Jun. 09 2010 03:58 PM
Joh Kozma from Charleston, SC

I spent 18 months in Japan as a researcher, and had an opportunity to meet with some young Japanese who were interested in practicing their English. I was able to sing our national anthem for them. It was an interesting contrast with the Japanese national anthem (which they wouldn't sing for me because they were a little self conscious, I think, about their singing voices). I also proposed when I taught high school math an interdisciplinary problem combining math and history: what is the mathematical meaning (i.e., in feet and inches) of "broad" in the national anthem?

Jun. 09 2010 09:56 AM

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