Francis Scott Key
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I am calling to class all performers who are contracted to sing our national anthem at any NASCAR event this year. I wish to go over some basics to ensure that our sport represents our country as it ought, and prevent any horrific, embarrassing renditions that shame the USA or the singer, like Christina Aguilera managed so well at the Super Bowl.
First, read and memorize the lyrics provided at the top of this column. It is these words that are the important thing when you take that stage, not you, despite what your agent might be telling you. It is not required that the audience loves you for your performance. They should tell the story of our flag and our country’s refusal to lie down in the face of devastating odds.
If you are not a history buff and don’t wish to hear the battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, of which the lyrics were penned, let me put the spirit of the song in a more contemporary setting. Just after the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, New York City firefighters raised the Star Spangled Banner on a makeshift flagpole amidst the rubble. Even in the moment of our greatest despair, Americans knew that our heart had not been beaten, for the flag still waved. The Stars and Stripes are a symbol of our ability to overcome and never give in to an assault on our country.
So, as the song is about our brave soldiers, firefighters, police and anybody who makes it their personal responsibility to see to the safety and strength of our home, it is nothing but sheer arrogance to stand up on stage and turn the tune into some elaborate demonstration of your ability to jump octaves at will.
Also, this song is not meant to be performed only by our elite musicians. It is sung in every school, town hall and Little League game. Pre-schoolers, your Aunt Bertha, Mom, the tone deaf kid next door and Great Grandpa all have the right to raise their voices in respect to their nation, which results in a truly joyous noise. I would suggest not just looking at your invitation to sing the anthem as an opportunity to showcase your voice, but as the chance to lead the crowd. Invite them to sing along!
Finally, the actual notes. The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the more difficult songs in our patriotic melodies to execute with grace. This may be why we are so eager to hire professional artists to kick off our sporting events. Nonetheless, it is not an invitation to re-write the music by adding a gazillion extra notes running up and down every audible scale. Please restrain yourself and stick to the score.
Now, not everybody spoils the moment before the green flag flies. If you wish to see a fine example of a respectful and elegant performance of the Star Spangled Banner, I am proud to say that Laura Bell Bundy must have heard my wishes before I got the chance to write this. She sang before the start of the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, and provided the gathered crowd a rendition that is worthy of repeating.
With so many races to be run this year across America, NASCAR has many opportunities to do right by our flag, our nation and its anthem. I can only hope that the artists that are invited to participate take these suggestions to heart and decide that it is a privilege to sing of our flag, and not just another opportunity to show off.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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