by Robert Morrison
January 29, 2013
And another thing, I didn’t like Beyoncé’s performance of the National Anthem. I don’t mean to get into the controversy over whether or not she should have lip-synched The Star-Spangled Banner. I think it would probably be okay to do that for purposes of amplification. After all, the million plus folks who came to witness the Inauguration last week ought at least to be able to hear the ceremonies.
It’s not because I don’t think Beyoncé is beautiful or that I don’t think she has a lovely voice. She is and she does. What I didn’t like was turning the National Anthem into a blues ballad. It ain’t that.
There is a traditional way to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. It doesn’t take long to listen to it. There’s a perfectly fine rendition of it online. Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill does a fine job with the U.S. Air Force Band.
The enthusiastic audience reception for Mr. Merrill and the band probably include hundreds of Americans who know that the anthem is supposed to be sung as “a sprightly martial air.” If we cannot hear our National Anthem properly sung at a presidential inauguration, for Heaven’s sake, where can we hear it?
It would have been especially nice to have the traditional National Anthem because we are approaching the bicentennial of the poem written by Francis Scott Key. The young Maryland lawyer was on board a British warship, trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner, during the August, 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry. The British war fleet was trying to reduce the fort to complete their invasion ofMarylandby taking the important port city of Baltimore.
In the rear of those British forces that grim summer lay the nation’s capital. The invaders had staged a quick short but destructive raid on Washington City. They torched the White House, the Capitol, and even the Library of Congress. British soldiers ate President Madison’s dinner in the Executive Mansion before setting it ablaze. First Lady Dolley Madison had raced to save the large Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that again hangs on the wall. Only a hurricane force storm had quenched those flames.
I would love to hear that anthem sung as it should be sung. And perhaps at the next presidential inauguration, we might even hear this verse:
O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand?
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
The no-God-here crowd wouldn’t like it, of course. But they don’t like the president putting his hand on the Bible, having the Bible in plain sight, hearing “…so help me God,” or anything else most Americans want to hear at this solemnizing event. We need to remind these atheizers that it’s a swearing-in, not a swearing-at.
Here’s a Star-Spangled Compromise: Let’s ask inaugural organizers for the January 20, 2017ceremonies to invite Beyoncé back. Only this time, ask her to sing Ray Charles’s version of America the Beautiful.
That great song is not our national anthem, but it’s a national treasure. And no one did it better than the inimitable Ray Charles. Just thinking of that scene –January 20, 2017 – gives me a warm glow. I can’t wait.