ATG Book of the Week: Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem

Star Spangled Banner ferrisTitle: Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem
Author: Mark Ferris

Hardcover: ISBN: 9781421415185; $24.95
Imprint: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2104

“Nearly every American knows The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. Yet many people dislike the song, contend that it glorifies militarism, and question its suitability as the musical embodiment of nationhood. Even professional vocalists have trouble singing the multi-octave melody and remembering the words. So why in 1931 did Congress designate it as the official national anthem, more than a century after Francis Scott Key put pen to paper?

Filled with fascinating, little-known facts drawn from a variety of primary sources, Star-Spangled Banner provides the first narrative history of this controversial song, which turns 200 years old in 2014. Marc Ferris’s lively account, which traces the evolution of the song’s instant popularity as well as its use and abuse by Americans of different political stripes, also explains the changing rituals surrounding the song, including the practice of standing—with hats removed and hand held over the heart—during public performances…

“An engaging, conversational, and meticulously researched study of The Star-Spangled Banner over its 200-year history. Historians will find great insight into the importance of music as a tool for historical inquiry; musicologists will welcome a serious study of song; and general readers will gain a larger understanding of the way humans use national symbols to construct and reinforce identity.”
Susan Key, Star-Spangled Music Foundation

 

Read how Mark Ferris came upon the idea for writing his book “while sitting in a graduate history seminar at Stony Brook University” in A star-spangled path to writing a book

 

 

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