Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independence Day

It's the Fourth of July again, and I'm here to renew the campaign to replace "The Star Spangled Banner" with "America the Beautiful" once again.



This is the kind of imagery I associate with America, and this is the imagery used by "America the Beautiful". As I said a couple of years ago:

I don't like "The Star Spangled Banner". It's a chest-thumping, militaristic poem about a particular battle early in our history, set to a British drinking tune, which explains why it's so hard to sing - you have to be drunk to sing it, and that rise up to the high note (... o'er the laaaaand of the freeeeee...) was where they raised their flagons high in the pub and spilled beer all over themselves. It doesn't say anything about the country, the people, and what the country is all about. All it's about is barely winning one battle. And as the character Belize says in Tony Kushner's Angels in America: "The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word free to a note so high nobody could reach it." (Yes, Francis Scott Key, the "poet" who composed the lyrics, was pro South, pro slavery, from a slave-holding family from Carroll County, MD.)

My suggestion for a new national anthem is "America the Beautiful". The words were written by Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, in 1893 after a trip from Boston to Colorado Springs. The music was composed by Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster. Unlike "The Star Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful" is meant to be sung in a reverent and respectful manner and actually praises America for its beauty and principles. Let's face it, it's just a much more pleasant song, both lyrically and musically, than the current national anthem.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd,
And mercy more than life.
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

So as usual in my annual campaign, here are two versions - a beautiful choral version and Ray Charles' soulful and moving one. My vote is cast; how about yours?

 


Photos © 2012 by A. Roy Hilbinger

3 comments:

  1. I would love America the Beautiful to be our national anthem! And Ray Charles singing it is just THE best! Happy 4th to you!

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  2. Looking here from the Outside, I tend to agree with you Roy.Beauty id non-devisive & can be apreciated by All.

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