I spend every night at Dodger Stadium hosting Dodger Talk on KABC radio. That means that every night I’m treated to a different version of the National Anthem. I think I speak for the hundreds of millions of Americans who attend sporting events each year when I say to the performers…
The National Anthem is not a five-minute blues number.
It is not a Mariah Carey overwrought teen power ballad complete with runs and riffs and “yeahs” inserted in the middle. Whitney did it. You will never top it. Don’t try.
The National Anthem is not a song that needs a “hook”. Or your own “personal signature”.
It is not a sultry torch song. Do not use it to impress the chicks. The Star Spangled Banner is not catnip for horny women.
It is not opera. If you need to wear a Viking helmet to get in the mood, rethink.
Nor is it the Grand Ole Opry. Does Yankee Stadium look like a barn dance to you?
Yo! The National Anthem is also not a hip-hop jam. Do not sample “Happy Together” in the middle of it. Do not shout out “Clap your hands, y’all!” when you’re near the end.
It is not meant to be whistled, beat boxed, played on spoons, washboards, ukuleles, kazoos, or sung in Klingon.
The Rat Pack is dead. So should be all versions of the Star Spangled Banner that swing. Francis Scott Key did not envision finger popping and nowhere is the word “kookoo” in the lyrics.
And speaking of the lyrics – LEARN THEM. It’s “perilous fight” not “perilous night”, not “perilous flight”, not “perilous twilights bursting in air”.
The song has an actual melody. Just come close to it…even occasionally. That’s all I ask.
And finally, stop Stop STOP STOP trying to hold the last few notes forever. You’re not stirring. You’re a car alarm that won’t turn off.
The National Anthem is arguably one of the hardest songs to perform. But done well it’s also one of the most powerful. Just sing the friggin’ song.
And let us get on to “play ball!”.