14 Sep: Oh Say, Can You See?

Rerun. ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is now well-known as the USA’s national anthem – but when Francis Scott Key wrote the words on 14th September, 1814, it was merely the latest in a series of patriotic poems he’d penned; this one concerning the British assault on the coastal fortification of Fort McHenry.It was only when – bizarrely – it was set to the tune of an old English drinking song, ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’, that it began to gain traction – and another 119 years before it became the nation’s official ‘choon.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly learn what a ‘contrafactum’ is; explore why the US national anthem is so notoriously tricky to sing; and question what meaning ‘the land of the free’ held for Baltimore’s enslaved Africans…

Further Reading:

• ‘Francis Scott Key – National Anthem, War of 1812 & Facts’ (Biography, 2021): https://www.biography.com/writer/francis-scott-key

• ‘To Anacreon In Heaven’ (Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine):https://www.nps.gov/fomc/learn/historyculture/to-anacreon-in-heaven.htm

• ‘Top 10 American National Anthem Performance Fails’ (Watch Mojo, 2015):

‘Why am I hearing a rerun?’ Every Thursday is ‘Throwback Thursday’ on Today in History with the Retrospectors: running one repeat per week means we can keep up the quality of our independent podcast. Daily shows like this require a lot of work! But as ever we’ll have something new for you tomorrow! podfollow.com/Retrospectors