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Star-Spangled Banner

The Unlikely Story of America's National Anthem

Marc Ferris

Publication Date
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The first comprehensive history of America’s controversial national anthem and how it evolved from an English barroom ballad into a patriotic hit.

Nearly every American knows The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. Yet many people dislike the song, contend that it glorifies militarism, and question its suitability as the musical embodiment of nationhood. Even professional vocalists have trouble singing the multi-octave melody and remembering the words. So why in 1931 did Congress designate it as the official national anthem, more than a century after...

The first comprehensive history of America’s controversial national anthem and how it evolved from an English barroom ballad into a patriotic hit.

Nearly every American knows The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. Yet many people dislike the song, contend that it glorifies militarism, and question its suitability as the musical embodiment of nationhood. Even professional vocalists have trouble singing the multi-octave melody and remembering the words. So why in 1931 did Congress designate it as the official national anthem, more than a century after Francis Scott Key put pen to paper?

Filled with fascinating, little-known facts drawn from a variety of primary sources, Star-Spangled Banner provides the first narrative history of this controversial song, which turns 200 years old in 2014. Marc Ferris’s lively account, which traces the evolution of the song’s instant popularity as well as its use and abuse by Americans of different political stripes, also explains the changing rituals surrounding the song, including the practice of standing—with hats removed and hand held over the heart—during public performances.

This entertaining book will appeal to patriots of all persuasions, along with sports fans, musicians, veterans, history buffs, and anyone who has ever struggled to hit the high notes in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Reviews

Reviews

With its in-depth details not only about the making of the song but its incorporation into American history and lives, this is a powerful pick for any interested in American or musical history.

... Ferris has accomplished something here that many would have probably thought impossible: he has made the "Star Spangled Banner" sound good, or at least interesting.

... fascinating account...

An engaging, conversational, and meticulously researched study of The Star-Spangled Banner over its 200-year history. Historians will find great insight into the importance of music as a tool for historical inquiry; musicologists will welcome a serious study of song; and general readers will gain a larger understanding of the way humans use national symbols to construct and reinforce identity.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
328
ISBN
9781421415185
Illustration Description
10 halftones, 2 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue
1. Anthem before a Nation, 1814–1860
2. American Dischord, 1860–1865
3. Striving to Reunify, 1865–1900
4. Duties and Customs, 1880–1910
5. Stars and Stripes Forever, 1890–1920
6

Acknowledgments
Prologue
1. Anthem before a Nation, 1814–1860
2. American Dischord, 1860–1865
3. Striving to Reunify, 1865–1900
4. Duties and Customs, 1880–1910
5. Stars and Stripes Forever, 1890–1920
6. Marching under the Banner, 1898–1931
7. Trials and Triumphs, 1931–1954
8. Star-Spangled Conflict, 1954–1963
9. Postmodern Patriotism, 1964–2014
Epilogue
Appendix: The Original Words of The Star-Spangled Banner
Notes
Further Reading
Index

Author Bio
Marc Ferris
Featured Contributor

Marc Ferris

Marc Ferris earned an M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Time Out New York, Spin, Vibe, and elsewhere.