And our national anthem is?

I had a meeting with my boss at 4 pm today, and was delighted when he stopped the meeting at precisely 4:16, suggesting it was time to adjourn so we could go home and watch the inaugural festivities. I zipped home to catch the live feed streaming over the interwebs–thank goodness (I don’t have a TV)–and got to witness history, armed with a glass of M&S champers. The proceedings went along but I was mostly just watching as an interested observer until the point after the speech, when the military chorus came out to sing the national anthem and I inexplicably burst into tears!

Checking the BBC immediately post-festivities, I was terribly amused to find the following statement in the article linked here:

which reads, “Aretha Franklin then sang the US national anthem against a backdrop of clear blue skies and light wind.” Those who watched the proceedings might recall that Franklin sang “My Country Tis of Thee” which, although a lovely and patriotic song, is NOT the US national anthem. Although ironically of course it shares a tune with the UK anthem, apparently causing some confusion in the BBC newsroom! I logged a comment stating as much, and within an hour the article had been updated to this:


“Aretha Franklin then sang against a backdrop…” with no mention of the altered content nor my comment posted. Now I am not a big fan of changes to an article being made without it being noted that it was updated for factual inaccuracies; when I’ve come across similar issues on the Economist website they have both updated the article with a note at the end stating the correction, and left the comment in place to demonstrate the reason for the correction. Apparently the Beeb does not have an editorial policy which similarly acknowledges their own fallibility!

Regardless, the swearing in was lovely if slightly inarticulate, the speech was particularly interesting to this person who had not heard Obama deliver a speech previously, and America has a new president to rally behind even as the world economy (and the value of the British pound in particular) continues to crumble. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery…


8 responses to “And our national anthem is?

  1. Could you explain why one of your national songs goes to the same tune as the British national athem? Does this indicate a lack of originality in the American psyche: perhaps you’re more comfortable with copying and plagiarism? Please divulge! 🙂

  2. Good for you. How bad that the BBC team don’t know their national anthems (although I suppose it was a reasonable guess that the national anthem would be sung at that moment, and as you say, the tune does say “national anthem” to a Brit!)

  3. Hi, I just read your comment on my blog. Glad to have you.

    I missed this about the National Anthem. In fact, I missed it all. I was on my way home from work when it happened (on the bus, no radio) and have been too busy to look at a newspaper since.

  4. Thanks to purpleslog I did a little digging today, the tune predates God Save the King/Queen by about a hundred years–pretty common practice, the setting of many sets of lyrics to a single tune. There are quite a handful of countries that use that particular tune, and only some have Britain/commonwealth ties.

  5. You found a video stream that didn’t keep stalling? I wish! I missed the whole thing 😦

    I blogged the song confusion in our household a while ago. Doesn’t surprise me the Beeb altered their article without acknowledging that they’d corrected it.

  6. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, both words and music were written by a Dr. Henry Carey in 1740. I am not a history buff, but I think that was a little before the founding of the USA! So Howard is right – ‘My country is of thee is nothing but plagiarism’. It is also mawkish beyond belief.

  7. Sue, wrong on both counts. (1) The tune is not originally associated with the British anthem. Again, as noted above, musical scholars note that the tune predates being used in “God Save the King” by about a hundred years and is 17th century in origin. This tune existed long before either country used it for these songs. The words for both God Save the King and My Country ‘Tis of Thee were both then adapted to that existing tune–absolutely standard practice and thus the tune is not uniquely associated with either song. Re-using a single tune for many different songs is not plagiarism. (2) You mis-use the word plagiarism. Aside from the fact that it is common practice for many songs to use the same tune (have a good look through a American or British hymnal and count how many different songs use the same tune and some popular tunes are used for ten or more songs) “plagiarism” is by definition using someone else’s work without attribution. In this case, the author of the original tune is unknown/anonymous and that’s clearly stated in books where songs based on this tune are printed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s