Friday, February 09, 2007

We Need a New Song

Did anybody else think that Billy Joel's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl was kind of odd? Maybe it's just because his style is so distinctive, but it seemed to me that Joel turned the song into something that sounded like Piano Man meets the 4th of July ("so they sit at the bar, and stuff bread in my jar, and say 'man, our flag was still there'"). Anyway, after watching this latest nationally televised mangling of our national anthem, you can count me among the ranks of those who think we need a new one, or at least a different song to sing before sporting events.

Aside from egomaniac pop stars who trying to make the song their own and the occasional Roseanne Barr incident, the biggest problem with The Star Spangled Banner is that even the handful of Americans who actually know the words can't sing it to save their lives and don't want to try.

Did you ever notice that the most stirring renditions of our national anthem involve thousands of people listening to somebody else sing the song? When Whitney Houston sang it so memorably at the 1991 Super Bowl, it was all about her voice. The most impressive bit of audience participation in the national anthem that I can recall took place at the 1991 NHL All-Star game in Chicago, and the audience didn't sing, they cheered.

It isn't that way in other countries. You probably saw what the Canadians did during last year's Stanley Cup, but that's far from the only example. In Cardiff, Wales, 75,000 people (including the players) sing the Welsh national anthem before Rugby matches in a language that most of them don't even speak. Here are 60,000 Englishmen practically screaming God Save The Queen at Old Trafford. Even the jaded French can belt out La Marseillaise when the occasion calls for it -- although it usually takes a crowd of boorish Nazis to get them going.

There are a couple of things that are great about these anthems. First, they're real easy to sing and, second, they sound better when the singers are drunk. Those are both extremely important considerations if you want your song to be sung by a crowd at a sporting event.

So, what song replaces The Star Spangled Banner at sporting events? America the Beautiful is a strong contender, but it flunks the "sounds better when you've been drinking" test. I like Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, but it's too political for a lot of folks and would never fly. I guess I'd go with God Bless America, (sorry Woody) which is a song that easily satisfies both tests.


francis said...

Bet noboby knows the entire Star-Spangled Banner:

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

chocolate starfish said...

My pick for new national anthem would be "Hips Don't Lie," but only if Shakira sings it ....