A recent poll conducted by Vanity Fair and “60 Minutes” asked Americans whom they’d choose to write a new national anthem and the winner was … Bruce Springsteen.
What? You were expecting Miley Cyrus? Of course it was Springsteen. I wouldn’t even ask him to write anything new, I’d just go with “Born in the U.S.A.” and be done with it.
But this is why I am no Betsy Ross Key.
Everyone wants a new anthem and that means the genius of lines like “You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much” aren’t eligible.
No, the song must be new. If the Boss is going to do this, he’ll need to avoid the pitfalls of the national anthem we’ve been making do with since 1931 when Herbert (“At Least I Can Get This Song Thing Right”) Hoover made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the nation’s official song.
Nobody much liked the words and the tune was almost impossible to sing but we put up with it, the same way you learn to tolerate that brother-in-law who speaks of nothing except his toe fungus every Thanksgiving.
So, yes, let’s end this business of ramparts and bombs bursting in air and whatnot.
Every so often, someone suggests we simply replace the problematic “Star-Spangled Banner” with “America the Beautiful” which is much prettier and easier to sing but also has somewhat inane lyrics.
Although, I must admit that talk of “fruited plains” and “purple mountains’ majesty” isn’t nearly as off-putting as “sent me off to a foreign land/ to go kill the yellow man,” which is yet another reminder that Springsteen will have to start fresh.
“God Bless America” is catchy but a bit cliched and would be spurned by all those people who take their kids to Quaker preschool with bumper stickers on their minivans that say “God Bless the Whole World.” Plus that whole “through the night with the light from above” is almost impossible to get right so you end up singing “through the light with the night with the … oh, fugedaboutit!“
And what of “My Country Tis of Thee?” But first: Tis? That’s just weird. Also, it’s a bit of an also-ran in the patriotic song roundup.
After you get to the part about “Land where my fathers died” you pretty much start winging it. Go ahead, try it. See?
Finally, there’s Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” I have long campaigned for this song to be our national anthem, championing, as it does, notions of, uh, freedom and, well, birds.
It is a song that is emblematic of the American experience if by American experience you mean breaking your girlfriend’s heart while you go out to find the next best thing. While high. OK, maybe not the best choice.
Bruce Springsteen has been given his assignment and I hope he takes it every bit as seriously as I would. Yeah. This could take a while.