I thought this was a thought provoking article on All Things Considered yesterday: Poetic License Raises A Star-Spangled Debate (those with an audio preference can listen to an mp3 of the original story). A year (and a couple of days) ago, Rene Marie (whom I had not heard of until this article) stood up to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and, instead, sang the words of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" while retaining the original tune. I heard nothing of it, though it apparently reached some resemblance of a "big deal" right after it happened. Whether this is better or worse than the infamous Roseanne "nasal" rendition (or others), will probably have a lot to do with your feelings on "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and it's place as the "Black National Anthem".
She says that she had been performing it as such for a while (the mash-up of the two songs) and so when approached, she took it as a request for her version. Just about everyone else involved called her dishonest and worst. She apparently received death threats, lots of e-mail, and more than one phone call wanting to complain. Now-president, then Democrat-nominee, Barack Obama was asked and responded that she should have sung the song she was hired for, meaning the "Star Spangled Banner".
She points out that National Anthem is not sacred to her because it was written by a slave owner. And, All Things Considered adds, it was set to a drinking song. While you know, and I know, and she knows what she was doing; it is almost as likely to say she set "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to an old drinking song.
I have never been a big fan of ritual, and while I respect the "Star Spangled Banner", my love of this country is as a whole, not in sycophantic adoration of it's accoutrements. I adore the people and the artists and the genius of this country. Every piece of poetry and song every written and gladly sung is our "national anthem" as far as I am concerned, even the ones I hate. I have no anger nor chastisements for Rene Marie. I am surprised she did it, and kind of glad. Sometimes our thoughts need to be shaken up a little bit. It's not like she destroyed the National Anthem or even greatly polluted it. The song is sung a dozen times a day, every day, and will be for some time. Hers is a drop in the bucket that is best ignored if you do not like it. I, however, kind of like it, so I'm not ignoring it. Some have pointed out in comments and such, had, say, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" been co-opted for the lyrics of "Dixie" or whatever, she wouldn't like the taste of her own medicine...or some such. I don't know. Assuming that she would give people death threats for doing such is a bit much. Assuming that she would even be upset by it is also a bit much. She knows how music and lyrics fit together and she knows the process of music. Plus, as she says in the article: "That's when I realized you don't have to agree, but listening sure does go a long way toward peaceful relations — when people feel they are being heard."
She has set it up so you can download her take on the "Star-Spangled Banner" for free on her website. It is the third part of her "Voice of My Beautiful Country" suite, which you can download in full.
Si Vales, Valeo
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Written by Doug Bolden
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