Anthem with a Bullet!

Anthem with a Bullet!

Happy Birthday, America! But we don’t sing Happy Birthday today. We sing the “Star Spangled Banner”. Our National Anthem. I thought it would be fun to take a look at the SSB (as it’s called in the street) and see if it’s well written.


The Lyricist

Frances Scott Key was an attorney who had the good sense to leave all legalese out of the song. That would have just clouded the issue!  Well done, Francis!


The Lyrics

I just learned that we only sing the first verse!

 Here are the missing ones:

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 I think we sing the best verse or maybe I’m just used to it.


The Melody

According to Dave Hiskey on “Today I Found Out” “…

“the melody for the Star Spangled Banner was taken from a song in homage to drinking.

The melody that would be borrowed for the Star Spangled Banner was extremely popular and well known at the time the future U.S. national anthem was penned.  Around the time the Star Spangled Banner’s lyrics were written, this melody was being used for at least 84 popular songs in the United States alone, including Adams and Liberty – The Boston Patriotic Song and the subsequent tune Jefferson and Liberty, written after Jefferson was elected President.

The original song that used the melody was To Anacreon in Heaven, written sometime between 1760 and the late 1770s, expounding on the virtues of wine.”


Ok so the melody was “sampled” or in 18th century terms “stolen”.

I guess it was an accepted practice back then considering there were at least 84 songs with same melody.


The Setting of the Song

A lot of folks have a problem with the wartime setting of the lyrics. “America  the Beautiful” is nipping at it’s heels. While I abhor war, from a lyric writer’s viewpoint nothing gets those patriotic juices flowing like war does.


The Title

Not bad but only mentioned in the song once.



Bottom Line

Is it a well-written song? Well you can’t argue with a hit that’s still charting after 199 years!


What do you think? Was it well written?






1 thought on “Anthem with a Bullet!

  1. I can imagine a bunch of beer toting mugs trying to hit the high note on the word ‘Free’. The US Anthem is by no means easy to sing.

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