Celebrating the History
of the U.S. National Anthem

Cover Illustration of Book "O Say Can You Hear?" by Mark Clague

O Say Can You Hear?

A Cultural Biography of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Mark Clague

Musicologist Mark Clague’s new book explores the story of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in American Life. Rooted in more than a decade of new research, this pathbreaking study offers insights into the song, its author, and the cacophonous vocal tradition of American democracy. Chapters explore the writing of Key’s song, the melody’s origins, the hundreds of alternate American lyrics sung to the tune, the role of the song in war, American sports, and protest, its tradition of translation, and the anthem and Black lives. Clague asserts America’s anthem offers a clarifying view of American history and its changing socio-political landscape. He concludes that Francis Scott Key’s ultimate goal was not to write a nation’s anthem, but to call Americans to citizenship. Click here for Book Club questions and suggestions.

Our Mission

StarSpangledMusic.Org and the Star Spangled Music Foundation were created in celebration of the role of music in American life. We aim to provide accurate and engaging research, recordings, and stories to reveal the often forgotten impact of music, and patriotic song in particular, on the social experiment that is democracy in the United States. We are proud to have been featured by The New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, CNN, CNN Opinion, C-Span, Encyclopedia Britannica, PBS, Slate.com, The New York Times again, The Choral Journal, and Chorus America’s The Voice.

The Star Spangled Music Foundation

We bring the best of today’s music research to students, teachers, and the general public. A special emphasis is sharing learning resources without charge, including teacher-tested classroom toolkits and musical scores for fellow musicians. Like democracy itself, music is about doing. American song is as much a verb as a noun. It offers a means to practice citizenship and for Americans young and old to discuss who we are and who we want to be as US citizens and citizens of the world.

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