Four Gung-Ho Patriotic Tunes That Are Actually British

Categories: Miles-tones

Monday, July 4th, you'll celebrate Independence Day. We say you'll celebrate it because we will have already done our celebrating on the proper day... July 2. That's the day the Continental Congress voted to tell King George III to kiss their grits. It's true that the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4th, but even that is meaningless, as John Hancock and other delegates didn't sign the document until August 2. Hell, some members didn't sign until years later.

Robert Wuhl said, "The history of America is based on a true story," and no truer statement has ever been made about our country. There's little meaningful difference between the popular recollection of the Declaration's signing and the more boring and bureaucratic reality, but it is slightly off.

It's one thing to scream "No taxation without representation," and another to understand that we had representation in the form of Ben Franklin, who was really, really bad at representing the colonists to the crown. Those taxes, by the by, were to pay for a war we started with the French, were mostly lifted the minute we started complaining, and were barely collected anyway.

Does any of this change the fact that America is a noble experiment in democracy that generally becomes freer and more enlightened every year? Not really, but we feel it's important to recognize that things we hold as sacred American institutions are not always what they seem.

This is true even in the songs that most represent this country.

The Star-Spangled Banner

star spangled banner.jpg
"The Star-Spangled Banner" didn't become our official national anthem until 1931, though the Navy had used it as an official song since 1889. Now, it is synonymous with Old Glory, baseball and everything that we as Americans stand for.

The song has the Superman of origin stories. A lawyer named Francis Scott Key dashed off the poem while watching the British pound Maryland's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The poem not only birthed or national anthem, but also gave us the national motto, "In God We Trust," a line from the rarely sung fourth stanza.

In a sense we have to thank the British doubly for the song. Not only did their attack inspire Key, the melody was theirs anyway. Originally, the tune was a drinking song written by British composer John Stafford Smith called "The Anacreontic Song." And when we say it was a drinking song, we really mean it - the ability or inability to successfully sing a stanza of the tune was used as a sobriety test.

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