Monday, January 4, 2010

A Less Bad Version of the National Anthem

Bless his aging rock 'n' roll heart, Michael McDonald--late of the Doobies and Steely Dan--sang our god-awful national anthem without screwing it up at the Fiesta Bowl tonight.

The best one can hope for with this song is for it to sound less awful than it usually does at ball games when singers appear to be auditioning for American Idol and warbling a tune with its beginnings in a British barroom.

The pre-game ceremonies at the Salem Avalanche Class A professional baseball games during the summer are often the site of group cringes when some skinny white kid tries to sound like Whitney Houston (or, worse, Dolly Parton, who has something like a four octave range). Sometimes it just hurts. Imagine a French youngster signing "La Marseillaise" like that. She'd be hung.

The tune was originally "The Anacreontic Song" (don't ask) by an English J.S. Bach paraphernalia collector named John Stafford Smith and in 1931--paired with the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" by a Baltimore lawyer named Francis Key who couldn't spell--was adopted by our Congress as the national anthem. Congress has never been known for its musical taste. Politicians, as a race, are pretty tone deaf, in fact. All you have to do is listen to state songs to prove the point.

Michael, me boy, you done good today.

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