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.
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