10 things to know about the American national anthem

1. The “Star-Spangled Banner”, as Francis Scott Key’s song is known, was written in mid-September 1814 to celebrate the defeat of the British army at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. We are currently in its bicentennial year.

2. Before being called “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the song was called “The Defence of Fort McHenry”. The name we know today appears on the first printing of sheet music published in October/November 1814 and helped broaden the song’s national appeal.

3. During the Civil War, a German translation of the song was used by Union supporters to recruit German volunteers for the militia. Since then, Key’s lyrics have been translated into more than a dozen languages, including Spanish, Polish, French, Italian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Latin and Hawaiian.

4. The anthem was first performed at a professional sporting event in 1862 in Brooklyn, New York, where a band had been hired to celebrate the opening of a new baseball stadium. It was first played at the World Series in 1903 in Boston.

5. It was not until 1931 that the song became the official anthem of the United States by an act of Congress. Prohibitionists, nationalists, pacifists, and even music educators objected to the choice, suggesting alternatives such as “Hail Columbia” and “America, the Beautiful.”

6. The tune is an odd choice for a national anthem because its rhythmic signature makes it difficult to sing in a group – and a real musical feat for a soloist, for which music teachers objected to its choice.

7. Women played an important role in the adoption of the anthem. The Daughters of the War of 1812 were major supporters of the Congressional Act signed by President Herbert Hoover. It was a safe arena in which women could participate in political activism in the 20th century.

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8. Technically, there is no original, traditional or official version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Although some state laws have attempted to legislate an appropriate performance style, there are no individual official rules in this regard.

9. Psychedelic rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix has performed the anthem in concert at least 60 times, although most only know of his famous performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

10. The anthem has four verses, but we only sing one. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. an influential Boston writer, added a fifth verse in 1861 with new words advocating breaking the chains of American slaves.

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