This American Life

Oh Say Can You Sing ... the National Anthem?

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A close up of the US flag waving in the wind (Richard Stephen via iStock)

America's national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” was written by a white lawyer who owned slaves but fought for Black freedom in court. That contradiction captures the controversy embedded in the song. It is a song that can inspire patriotic fervor and ignite passionate protest. It is also notoriously hard to sing. We talk to Mark Clague about the anthem and his new book about it, "O Say Can You Hear." As we go into this Fourth of July weekend, during a time when the nation is roiled by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the congressional hearings on the insurrection at the Capitol, we hear from you about what patriotism means to you now. And what song speaks to your vision for America?

Guests:

Mark Clague, associate professor of Musicology and American Culture, University of Michigan; associate dean, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance; author, "O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of the Star-Spangled Banner"

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