'O Say Can You Hear'
Clague is an author and musicologist. His new book on the history of Francis Scott Key’s most famous work is called “O Say Can You Hear.”
It is ananthem that resounds with the hopes of many. It also serves as witness to a country of many contradictions. There are parts we never sing anymore.
The first is that Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words, owned slaves. The second is that Key wrote a little-known third verse that references “hireling and slave” – and we’re not really sure what that’s about. And the third reason is that we’re scrutinizing our notion of the U.S. as a historic “land of the free” as never before.
If the anthem is a problem, Davone Tines has proposed one solution: replace it with “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This song was composed around 1900 by the brothers James Weldon and R. Rosamond Johnson. Beginning around World War I, it became known as the “Black national anthem.”
Whether it is on this day, or those other days when hope and history rhymes, Americans will take to their feet and sing that their flag is still there.
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