As someone who has covered sporting events for more than 40 years and also served four-plus years active duty in the military, I have heard the national anthem sung and played for I don’t know how many times.
Let’s say thousands at a minimum.
So though I am not a musician or singer by any measure, I still believe I am qualified to give advice to those who are given the privilege of performing The Star Spangled Banner, whether it is prior to a sporting event or some other function
That advice is this:
Just sing the song.
Don’t give us your interpretation of how you think the song should be sung. Nobody cares what you think. We already know how it should be sung. We’ve heard it before.
Don’t screech the high notes. Or any notes for that matter. If you can’t hit them legitimately (and I can’t), then get up before the crowd in the first place.
And don’t drag it out. It’s not a funeral dirge. It has a somewhat lively tempo, I think, the tune having been taken from an old English drinking song. It should take about a minute-and-a-half or so.
And it should go without saying, don’t forget the words.
Although on that last, I must admit one of the most touching renditions of the anthem came a few years ago before a Portland Trail Blazers NBA game when a 13-year-old girl, who had a really good voice, forgot the words about two lines in.
As she looked around rather embarrassed and with a what-do-I-do-now look, probably hoping the floor would open and swallow her up, Mo Cheeks, who then was coaching the Blazers, came quickly up to her side and helped her through it. It was a rather touching moment and is available on Youtube if you search for Mo Cheeks and anthem.
But that’s it.
Nobody else is excused for forgetting the words.
What set me off on this, by the way, was the signing of the anthem before Monday night’s NCAA championship game between Kentucky and Kansas.
Some group I had never heard of called the Fray performed it. I knew we were headed for trouble when two of the four guys who came had guitar and a third had a drum.
For The Star Spangled Banner?
The guy who did the actual signing wasn’t all that bad, but if I hadn’t heard his words, I never would have known what song was being played. You certainly couldn’t tell from the music. I don’t think any English drinking song was ever written for a guitar, and the guy with the drum didn’t really help either.
Disaster, not of Roseanne Barr proportions, but pretty bad.
Sponsors of major sporting organizations seem to be make the worst choices when it comes to selecting anthem singers before such events as the Super Bowl, World Series, bowl games, etc.
Kelly Clarkson’s version at this year’s Super Bowl was pretty good, but alas, that too often is the exception, not the rule.
So I have a simple suggest for event planners.
Get a video and sound track of Whitney Houston’s performance before the 1991 Super Bowl and just go with that. Nobody has ever done it better.
It’s available on Youtube as well. Alas, so, too is Steven Tyler’s rendition before an NFL playoff game last year. Cats fighting in my backyard have come closer to doing the anthem right than he did.