It’s the Fourth of July tomorrow. Huzzah, fireworks and hot dogs for everyone! Of course, everyone within shouting distance of an American flag will probably get a heaping helping of this ditty as well.
Just as Francis Scott Key imagined it, right? Well, not quite, and not only because there wasn’t a singer like Whitney Houston available. Remember, Francis Scott Key wasn’t a musical composer, he only wrote the words. Where did the melody come from? According to this New York Times piece, the tune is an old British song called the Anacreontic Song. Key had the jingle in his ear while penning our national anthem, and it went something like this.
According to the Times,
Within a week, the lyrics were printed in Baltimore newspapers, with an indication that they be paired to the familiar British melody. Key supervised a full musical arrangement by the composer and publisher Thomas Carr — issued as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Times article has a lot more interesting stuff to tickle your brain with. Go read it! In the meantime, enjoy a musical history of the national anthem as presented on this CD by Thomas Hampson.
Happy Fourth of July everyone!