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Letter: Just sing it straight!

I read with interest Dan Williams’s column, “Taking liberties with the national anthem? Why not?” (Monitor Forum, April 15).

While music changes as time goes on, some music should never change. Our national anthem is one of them. Yes, the music was written by an Englishman, and it was actually the melody of a British song with bawdy lyrics. However, there is a difference between that song and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

I give this advice to the next person asked to sing the national anthem at an event: Save the vocal and musical gymnastics and the physical gyrations for your concerts.

This is not a piece of jazz for a sax or a loud, head-banging piece of music. Just sing this song the way you were taught in kindergarten: straight up, no styling. Sing it with the awareness that there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines watching you from bases and outposts all over the world. Don’t make them cringe with your self-centered ego gratification.

Sing it as if you are standing before a row of 86-year-old World War II vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and flag pins on their cardigans, and you want them to be proud of you for honoring them and the country they love – not because you want them to think you are a superstar musician. Sing it like you are singing to the families of those who died to protect us. Sing “The Star Spangled Banner” with the courtesy and humility that tells the audience that it is about America, not you!

GARY GORDON

Bow

Correct his post is a mess. That is what happens when you backtrack, spin and make excuses.

A couple of things gracchus. When did the Anthem lose it's historical importance? You state it is a miserable tune. You were the one that used the term dump. Then you tried to backtrack and say replace. Yet you call me on responding. Rich. Mr Gorden did not presume anything, nor did he state that only military are patriots. That was spun. He was responding to his right to his opinion. A little respect goes a long way when folks disagree with you. I thought you lefties were all about free speech, being civil and getting rid of the hate rhetoric? The posts on this forum are evidence that you do not practice what you preach.

I admit it. I used the word "dump" in reference to The Star Spangled Banner, and then I offered a replacement anthem. If you take the time to read Hunter_Dan's and mbrat's posts you will see 2 references to dog tags in the former and a litany of family military service as a credential from the latter. I salute (as I wrote) the military service, but you have to admit that there are other ways to define patriotism. As to the "historical importance," come on now. The bombardment of Fort McHenry as the defining event to be commemorated at everything from graduations to sporting events? Finally, you have produced nothing specific to indicate that I would stifle free expression except for the occasional tongue-in-cheek admonition that some posts might best be left unread. Perhaps "Vanity Fair" editor Graydon Carter was right in 2001 - that we have seen the end of the age of irony.

Thanks for having my back Gracchus. And you are spot on about the tune . . . it's horrendous to sing, one of the least singable melodies I've ever heard in fact. There are so many patriotic songs that would be better as our national anthem - American the Beautiful, This Land Is Your Land, heck, even God Bless America. In fact, the Canadian national anthem is a much nicer tune from a musical standpoint. But alas, we mustn't change ONE SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS COUNTRY! Not slavery, not women's sufferage . . . NOTHING! Unless of course some one comes along and suggests "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood as our new national anthem - then I'm sure Rabbit, Itsa, G-dub, et al will be CLAMORING to have a new anthem!!!

Did I hear my name? I suppose I have to add my .02 now that I was called out. I thought Whitney Houston sang this "least singable" song absolutely fantastically. Maybe you think its horrendous to sing because you cant sing it. There is a reason why some things are traditions. I couldn't imagine hearing "This land is your land" before the Superbowl.

Not sure why we have to bring slavery, women's sufferage into the debate about the anthem. I like the anthem, and I like it when someone sings it and asks you to sing along. That to me is the way the anthem should be, everybody singing together.

Again, you and HD assumed Gordon was implying the kid who sang the song was unpatrioic or was dissing the military. I did not get that from the letter. I also did not get from the leter that the writer was pushing that only the military are patriotic. As far as stiffling free expression, what you call tongue-in-cheek is nothing more than an excuse. You admitted to saying dumped, then you justified by bringing HD into the reasoning. Vanity Fair is a Liberal Rag. When it is not pushing it's liberal agendas, it is singing praises to the hollywood crowd like they matter. You know that crowd that is disfunctional on all levels.

1)"Again, you and HD assumed Gordon was implying the kid who sang the song was unpatrioic or was dissing the military." Untrue, that is you projecting what you think I think. But you can't claim that the original letter didn't strongly imply that the performances cited were inappropriate. 2)"You admitted to saying dumped, then you justified by bringing HD into the reasoning." Yes, both of those are correct; but they are not connected. 3)"Vanity Fair is a Liberal Rag." What does that have to do with the accuracy of the statement? 4)"...what you call tongue-in-cheek is nothing more than an excuse." Absolutely untrue, and your statement gives strong evidence if not outright proof that Graydon Carter's comment was indeed spot on. If the standard for singability of a melody is Whitney Houston, then I suggest that everybody without her splendid vocal gifts be banned from singing along. Finally, good sir or madam, your not being able to imagine something is a pretty weak justification for not challenging a tradition. Just think - what Beethoven did was unimaginable in his day....

To gracchus below...Rabbit and I are 2 completely separate people. Your comment is a mess. Please correct it.

Mr. Gordon, If you had ever seen the student I mentioned in my piece perform his version of the Star Spangled Banner at any of our school events you'd notice some metallic objects hanging from the headstock of his electric guitar. These objects are the dog tags of his deceased grandfather - a war vet, and the dog tags of a good friend of his who's currently serving this country overseas. How dare you presume that you know what is in the heart of anyone who performs the National Anthem not to your liking. How dare you assume that the feelings that their motivation is anything less than patriotic. How dare you assume that they do not respect our military or love this country. Good day, Sir.

Mr. Williams, I debated long and hard about replying to your note and finally decided I needed to. You sir are painting me with the same brush you accuse me of using but which I did not. My letter was my “opinion” and had no mention whatsoever of the young man whom you refer to. The only thing I mentioned concerning any thing in your letter was the origins of the music for our National Anthem. As to the rest of your reply you sir know nothing about me... How dare I? I will tell you how I dare. I dare because of my ancestors who fought in the Civil War and whose portrait hangs in the State House in Concord, I dare on the fact that I had 2 uncles in WWI one of which was gassed in the trenches. I dare because of my 7 uncles from WWII who served overseas in the Army, Navy , and Air Corps. One of whom fought in Africa, invaded Sicily, and died with his buddies at Anzio and still remains there, because of another uncle who rode in a tank over the hills of Korea. I dare sir because of my father who served as an army MP and liberated many of the death camps in Europe, who was also a Korean and Vietnam era vet as well as a Cold War vet. I dare for my nephew who is right now an Air Force pilot. But most of all I dare because I was raised in the military and lived all over the world seeing what our Flag really means and hearing Taps played every time one of my friends parents came home in a box. I knew the real meaning of why when at age 7, I received my own dog tags and they were not for decoration. These are the reason among many others that I dare. As to what gives my the right to express my opinion maybe I think it’s my medals that hang on my wall from Vietnam and Korea. Gary Gordon

Epic.

I thank you for your service sir. And now I remind you that you are not the only person who has relative who fought and died for our country. I have relatives who served. We all do. You are entitled to your opinion. And though it is YOUR opinion that our National Anthem should be played in a particular manner, according to one specific version which you may have heard, that is merely your opinion. The main focus of the "My Turn" piece which I wrote and which your letter is in reference to, was a musical history lesson. That is all. But since you seem to think there's only one way for it to be performed, let's get down to brass tacks: 1) What key should it be performed in? 2) What metronome marking? 3) Should the first phrase be preceded by a long roll on the snare drum for two measures? 4) For four measures? This is the slippery slope that you are going down when you suggest that a particular piece of music shall only be played in one specific way. Your OPINION that this is how it shall be negates the OPINIONS of everyone else. That kind of thinking runs contrary to the notion of America that your relatives and mine fought and died for.

Please note, everybody, that what appears to give people the "right" to have an opinion on this subject is having some connection to the military. Thank you all for your service, but there have been thousands of other real heroes who performed vital service to the nation who never picked up a weapon and marched off to war. I claim no such heroic status for myself. However, I do have friends and family who were beaten in Alabama for demanding that others get the same rights that they had, who performed valuable civilian service rather than submit to the call to go to Viet Nam, who stood up to the fear that gripped the country during the McCarthy era and so on. As to the original debate, the solution is really very simple: dump the Star Spangled Banner. It long ago lost its historical importance, and it's a miserable tune to boot. If nobody else will step up to the bar, I guess I'll have to be the one to contact Annie Kuster's office and ask that she introduce a bill replacing it with America The Beautiful. A fairly committed atheist, I'll still stand up and gladly sing, "...God shed His grace on thee...."

Wow. Dump the Anthem! geeze and I thought the attacks on Christmas were bad. We seem to have a lot of folks who are anti American. What next, stop flying the flag. Oh wait folks have already been told to stop flying the flag in their homes. Seems to me that Libs are always unhappy.

Rabbit (see below) apparently needs to have a refresher course where students learn the difference between "dump" and "replace." The Star Spangled Banner has been the national anthem for only about 80 of the 199 years since the event Francis Scott Key memorialized. Surely we can give another song its turn to be national anthem. Or does he most strongly object to my point that one needn't be in the military to be either a hero or a patriot? If so, what a sad commentary!

Gary, thank you for your letter. This is one of my (many) bugaboos. My only defense is to make a point of seeking out the singer when he/she does it right, when I'm in a venue small enough to do that, to thank them for their performance. I find my thank you's are usually appreciated. It's what I call reaching out to encourage the good guys.

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