In a stark reminder of how dangerous it would be to let journalists make important decisions of any kind, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times is proposing that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be replaced by the 1972 pop tune “Lean on Me,” according to the Washington Examiner.
Judy Rosen opined in a July 14 column that the national anthem of the United States is “racist” and should be replaced by a kinder, gentler ditty which just so happens to have been performed by a black man. Rosen says “Lean on Me,” first released in 1972 by Bill Withers, should become the new national anthem.
“Bill Withers’ 1972 soul ballad may seem like a curious choice. It has none of the qualities we associate with national anthems. It’s a modest song that puts on no airs. It speaks in plain musical language, without a trace of bombast, in a tidy arrangement that unfolds over a few basic chords,” wrote Rosen.
“It doesn’t march to a martial beat or rise to grand crescendos. The lyrics hold no pastoral images of fruited plains or oceans white with foam, no high-minded invocations of liberty or God. “Lean on Me” is a deeply American song — but it’s not, explicitly at least, a song about America,” he wrote. “Yet it has long been a kind of national anthem.”
Rosen declared that Francis Scott Key, credited with writing the anthem, owned slaves. He added that some, rarely sung verses of the anthem included “racist” language about slavery.
He also argued that musically, the song is not suitable for an anthem. The high note that ends the line, “land of the freeeeee” is too high for most common singers to reach, he said. The tune also originated in Britain, he said, and a U.S. anthem should have been written here.
“A song with words few people understand, which fewer can sing, whose sound and spirit bear no relation to our catchy, witty, unpretentious homegrown musical forms: Is this really what we want to hear when we ‘rise to honor America’?” Rosen wondered.