This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And this is The Score.
Christina Aguilera’s flubbing of the National Anthem has drawn equal billing to any football news, post Super Bowl. OK, “the twilight’s last ‘reaming’” was perhaps egregious botching, compared to other Anthem gaffes, such as Robert Goulet, before a Muhammed Ali-Sonny Liston fight, singing “by the dawn’s early night”. But the list of professional singers flubbing the notoriously most difficult song of the English language, along with Over the Rainbow, is long indeed. As Nat King Cole put it: “If you do nothing else in your life, don’t ever sing the national anthem at a ballgame.”
There exists a poll that claims two-thirds of Americans don’t know all the words to our National Anthem. I myself, after standing erect and proudly attempting to find the impossible-to-find right start note at hundreds of sporting events through my life, still look for others to lead the way through some of those middle, awkward phrases. But I’m not a pro, you say. Aguilera had prepared for the billion-plus audience, The Moment of a career. Worse, it turns out Aguilera, as a child star growing up in a town near Pittsburgh, sang The Star Spangled Banner many, many times at Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins games. She even belted out the Anthem at the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. Still, I say we give Ms. Aguilera a break. It’s not only a difficult song, the one Frank Sinatra called The Worst, musically, The Unequivocal Worst, but it’s an antiquated song. A public outcry to switch our National Anthem from The Star Spangled Banner to America the Beautiful has been raging for decades now.
If a Congressional Resolution declared The Star Spangled Banner our National Anthem back in 1931, why can’t our current Congress amend, and make amends, by now declaring America the Beautiful our Anthem.
I don’t know about you, but my elementary school education is hazy at this point. I thought I remembered Francis Scott Key writing the song as he witnessed a battle through the night, back in the early 1800’s, and that it was then that it became our national song. But no, Key’s poem The Defense of Fort McHenry was printed by his brother-in-law, set to the melody of a popular British drinking tune called The Anacreontic Song. The song gained popularity at patriotic events, such as Independence Day parades, over the next century, and then started play as a patriotic ritual during the seventh-inning stretch at Major League Baseball games during World War I, by which time it had been renamed The Star Spangled Banner.
We can appreciate the song’s history but why not leave it to the few, the brave, and the rest of us move on to America the Beautiful.
And speaking of Brave, Christina Aguilera didn’t do the Vegas sports books any favors on Super Bowl Sunday, either. Not only did the casinos lose money on the game itself, most gamblers winning on the parlay of Green Bay winning by more than 2 ½ points and a total combined score of more than 45 points, but they also won big on the bet that Aguilera would hold that note on the word Brave for more than 6.1 seconds. She went 11.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And that’s The Score.