Our national anthem is sacred. If you doubt this, watch an American athlete’s eyes fill with tears when he or she hears it played while proudly standing on the gold-medal platform at the Olympics. Glance over at the military veteran standing nearby at the ballgame as he stands at attention, hand over his heart, respectfully.
Our national anthem might not be the most singable one in the world. Count me among those who would prefer a national anthem we can more easily sing, such as “America the Beautiful.”
But singable or not, we Americans love and respect our “Star Spangled Banner.” And we are not alone in this. Witness a similar pride of country in the manner in which people of other nations rise to sing their national anthems. Some are so stirring, one can’t help to be inspired by the display of devotion.
Why is it, then, we tolerate, even applaud the wreckage so many solo singers make of this sacred anthem of pride and patriotism? Fergie’s recent trashing of it is only the latest and possibly most flagrant example of this abuse. Over the past few decades, Americans attending public events have increasingly been subjected to countless individuals’ personal interpretations of a piece of music we hold sacred.
Here’s a news bulletin for these singers, some of them prominent, accomplished artists in their fields: An invitation to sing our national anthem is not your license to add your own particular flourishes. It is not. It is your opportunity to respect the national anthem for what it is — our nation’s sacred anthem — and leave your personal touches for other performances of other musical selections in other settings, where they are appropriate.