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HomeArtsComing Up: Star Spangled Banner Story in Larchmont- Nov. 20

Coming Up: Star Spangled Banner Story in Larchmont- Nov. 20

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This guy used to work for Patch, so we thought we’d let him write his own article…

Submitted by Marc Ferris, who wrote a book, Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem 

I grew up two miles from this bookstore, Andersons in Larchmont and graduated from Scarsdale HS. On Thurs., Nov 20, 6:00-7:30 pm, I will sign copies of my new book and sing historic and patriotic songs with guitar and banjo accompaniment. I wrote this book in Westchester and work in Purchase. I will perform historic and patriotic songs with a banjo player. There is a Veterans Day tie-in, though that holiday is Nov. 11.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner‘s creation. The military, along with veterans groups like the VFW and the American Legion, aided by a little-known scandal involving the federal government’s treatment of WWI veterans, helped make it easy for Pres. Herbert Hoover to sign the national anthem bill in 1931.

Many books detail the remarkable events surrounding the song’s creation by Francis Scott Key, but this one tells the rest of the story and extends through the present day. Anyone who reads it will never hear the anthem the same way again, since it also presents a lot of fun, unknown facts. Here are just four out of 30:

  • Shakespeare coupled the words “star” and “spangled” in two of his plays.

  • The original song to which Key fused his words is indeed a paean to the joys of music, sex and drinking.

  • One of the greatest ironies in U. S. history is that a slave-holding southerner whose entire family supported the
    Confederacy wrote the Northern anthem while an anti-slavery Northerner wrote the Southern anthem (Dixie).

  • Anyone carrying U. S. currency has a piece of The Star-Spangled Banner in his or her pocket or purse: the
    government printed the phrase “In God We Trust,” parsed from a line in the song’s fourth verse, “In God Is Our Trust,”
    and printed it on coins beginning in the Civil War and on paper bills since 1957.

Called “fascinating” by Baltimore magazine and featured in the LA Times, AP, Parade, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and the American Legion magazine, this non-partisan patriotic book covers an array of interesting topics regarding the one tune just about every American knows:

  1. Of all the other rivals, how did this song become the national anthem? People may revere the tune due to its stature, but they also love to complain about its supposed difficulty to sing, unmemorable words of the first verse (there are four) and its alleged militarism, among other gripes.

  2. Why did it take 117 years for Congress to pass legislation designating the song as the national anthem?

  3. What factors led Congress to act in 1931? On appearance, it would seem to be a contrived attempt to bind the nation during the depression through patriotism, but the real story is much more complicated.

For the song’s 200th birthday, the best present we can offer is to dispel the pervasive myths that have persisted throughout the centuries. In part, Francis Scott Key is partly to blame for an endemic lack of knowledge about the national anthem.

Myth 1: Key wrote a poem that someone else later matched with the melody of a song that originated in England called To Anacreon in Heaven.

Myth 2: Key called his poem The Defence of Fort M’Henry. This is a big one, often repeated.

Myth 3: The song is war-like.

Myth 4: The Star-Spangled Banner first aired at a sporting event during the 1918 World Series. When I appeared on a TV news program, at the very moment I debunked this falsehood, the news ticker flashed this non-fact.

Myth 5: Jimi Hendrix played the first controversial version of the song at Woodstock in 1969.

 

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