EXACTLY HOW SHOULD A PERSON OF ANY RACE OR GENDER SING THE ULTRA-PATRIOTIC AMERICAN ANTHEM, THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER?


With the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season making me feel oh so grateful and happy for what I currently have, I also find myself thinking back to holiday’s past when things were not so great and today I remembered something unusual that occurred during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday four years ago back in 2008.

Four years ago during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday when I was staying at one of the better homeless shelters in New Hampshire (One that was super clean, didn’t allow intoxication or theft of any kind, had plenty of good food, had less than a handful of the employees stealing only 10% of the donations that came in for the residents and one that let you stay in the shelter all day long just as long as you weren’t sleeping and didn’t kick your ass out between the hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm with no place to go other than the library even in the freezing cold) one night at about 8:00 pm I went down to the lower level of the shelter to clean the bathroom which was my assigned chore for that day.

Sitting in the living room area of the lower level on the couch were two nice White guys in their 50’s named Jerry and Dan. All through the day the two men were talking about some football game that they were dying to watch later that night so not wanting to disturb them I dragged my cleaning supplies with me as quietly as I could in the direction of the bathroom that I had been assigned to clean but as I passed the two men they turned their attention away from the tv and started chatting with me and I happily obliged after taking a quick peek at the tv and seeing that the game had not formally started yet.

Anyhoo, as we were all talking, all of a sudden the song, The Star Spangled Banner started to play and both men quickly but nicely shushed me. I instantly became quiet. Dan, even rose to his feet and placed his hand over his heart. After the song was finished, Jerry startled the hell out of me when he said, “I hate it when they do that!” in a voice filled with extreme irritation. “Do what?” I quickly asked perplexed. “Sing The Star Spangled Banner like that.” he replied, extreme irritation still visible in his voice and now on his slightly flushed face.

And yet again I was perplexed because the plump Black woman who had just finished singing the song in my opinion had done a great job singing the American anthem, whoever the hell she was. So, I didn’t understand what Jerry meant. Jerry obviously seeing that I had no clue about what the hell he was talking about quickly and vehemently clued me in fast. “You’re not supposed to sing The Star Spangled Banner like that. The song is supposed to be sung plain and simple! No theatrics!” he said, still extremely irritated and flushed.

After Jerry said his peace I then immediately understood what he was talking about. It was clear that Jerry was upset that the Black woman had done a very soulful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and it was oh so obvious that Jerry didn’t like that one little bit. After a few seconds of taking this in, I immediately thought that was ridiculous. So, I defended the vocalist because in my eyes she hadn’t done anything wrong.

“She was only putting her own personal spin on the song. Ya’ know, just adding a little flavor.” I said to Jerry. But Jerry and Dan, who I now noticed was still standing but his right hand was no longer placed over his heart but rather at its side, were having none of it. “The Star Spangled Banner is supposed to be sung plain and simple! No theatrics!” Jerry said again, with a firm chin and a note of finality in his extremely irritated voice.

At Jerry’s words, I immediately let my eyes roll heavenward and said in an equally firm voice, “This is America, a person has the right to sing The Star Spangled Banner anyway they want to!” This time Dan joined in the dispute and said, “Your wrong, Tina. The song is not supposed to sung that way. It’s supposed to be sung plain and simple with no theatrics just like Jerry said before. To sing The Star Spangled Banner any other way is vulgar and disrespectful to the country, veterans and the flag.”

Again, I let my eyes roll heavenward and not really wanting to get into a more in depth dispute over how The Star Spangled Banner should be sung, I theatrically shrugged my shoulders and said, “Whatever.” and went off to clean the bathroom.

Folks, let me tell you that over the past four years every once in a while this patriotic ghost has come back to haunt me from time to time and get me thinking. And here are a few of my thoughts:

Since I know for a fact that Jerry and Dan didn’t have one racist bone in their bodies after knowing them for awhile I had to rule out the fact that they were complaining about the song The Star Spangled Banner being sang that way only because the woman who sang it was Black because I knew damn well that if a White man had done a little blue-eyed Righteous Brothers soul to the song, Jerry and Dan would be just as upset as well. Or even if a White man had performed a country rendition of The Star Spangled Banner (Jerry and Dan both like country music) with a little twang in his voice or even if a White man classical trained in the theatre had performed the song The Star Spangled Banner as if he were performing it on Broadway in a dramatic opera like Les Miserables or The Mikado, Jerry and Dan still would not have liked it and would have been upset by it.

I have long surmised that with these two men, who I like to think of as conservative Americans, when it comes to The Star Spangled Banner there is no middle ground, no compromise. Part of me wonders if they are just both products of their time being that they were both born approximately in the 1950’s or 1960’s where things were more black and white back then. Hmmm? Even though I disagree with them on how The Star Spangled Banner should be sung both men do have a right to their own opinion but so do I which is why I finally wrote about this subject.

Anyhoo, however you think that our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner should be sung in my opinion is up to you as long as it is not sung in a hateful or perverted way. It is and always will be one of the best songs ever written! On that fact both, Jerry, who now lives up in heaven and Dan, who still lives on earth in New Hampshire just a couple of blocks away from me, will most definitely agree! And folks, finally we have some common ground. Hooray!!!

P.S.    Francis Scott Key you totally rock!  And lip syncing the American anthem totally sucks!  Did you hear that, Beyonce?

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