National Anthem 2022: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave
Stephanie St. John's "The Star Spangled Banner"
There is little to celebrate on Independence Day this year, I realize; few reasons to feel patriotic. Just as Sam and Clarence and Neil and Brett and John and Amy Covid threw cold water on my vacation, so have they ruined the Fourth of July. With democracy on the verge of collapse, and the American experiment on life support, it’s difficult to enjoy the hot dogs, fireworks, and parades.
Here’s the thing, though. The Fourth? It’s ours. The American fascists have no claim to it. Let them set aside June 14 (Trump’s birthday), or April 20 (Hitler’s birthday), or May 18 (Plessy v. Ferguson decision) for their hateful holiday. The Fourth of July belongs to We the People, not despotic white supremacists.
Our flag, too, is our flag. Let the American fascists appropriate the Stars & Bars, or Gadsden, or Blue Lives Matter—or this:
And the American fascists sure as shit don’t get to make off with “The Star Spangled Banner.” No fucking way. Let Kid Rock or Ted Nugent or fucking Emin Agalarov write those artless jackasses a new one. Let Roseanne Barr sing the state-sanctioned version.
I love the National Anthem. I think it’s a stirring piece of music. I love the lyrics, written by Francis Scott Key all the way back in 1814, when the British were kicking our ass, when the future of the country was very much in doubt. I love how it’s difficult to sing well. I love watching how various singers, famous and otherwise, approach the performance at a sporting event.
My wife also enjoys watching these performances, critiquing them like she’s Simon Cowell on American Idol. She is a fantastic vocalist, and I’ve heard her do a killer version of the song countless times, singing to herself in the kitchen or the shower. She was just doing this a few weeks ago, after listening to one of the National Anthems during the NBA Finals. So, with the Fourth of July around the corner, I asked if she would record the Anthem for PREVAIL. She did, and, I’m proud to say, she slayed.
Here, then, is Stephanie St. John’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner” for 2022:
What you can’t tell from listening to the finished version is that the first track was a cappella. The instruments were added later. “I think it adds a layer of dissonance,” she said, “like how it really is to be here in the USA now.”
Republicans in Congress, the Kochs and their ilk, the Federalist Society, RAGA, ALEC, the Supreme Court, Trump and his henchmen, DeSantis and Noem and Tate Reeves and Greg Abbott—they all want democracy to die. The American fascists want a return to antebellum minoritarian rule, if not the pre-1776 tyranny we declared our independence from 246 years ago today.
Whether the United States remains the Land of the Free in November and beyond depends largely on if it is also, truly, the Home of the Brave.