Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Humor of Erma Bombeck (a post on National Anthems)

I have always liked reading Erma Bombeck’s books. She’s has a funny way of looking at things and could make mundane everyday occurrences appear hilarious. And I think the following essay by Erma that I’m posting below is fitting to be read about by a lot of people these days after the Manny Pacquiao fight last Sunday and the way the National Historical Institute unfairly criticized Geneva Cruz for singing the Philippine National Anthem using the "wrong" tempo. I found the rendition heartfelt and sincere and no matter what the tempo was, Geneva sang in tune! Which is more than I can say about the girl who sang The Star-Spangled Banner who went off-key a few times.

Speaking of which, Erma has this insightful (and funny!) essay about her country’s national anthem. It was included in her book “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries – What am I Doing in the Pits?” I can’t resist sharing it with you …


The Hernia Amendment to the National Anthem

Few will argue that the inspirational words of Francis Scott Key are stirring enough to make Jane Fonda enlist in the Coast Guard. But something has got to be done about the melody of our national anthem before someone hurts himself.

I watched a man at the ball game the other Sunday standing tall and proud as he sang, “Oh say can you see.” But by the time he got to the high-pitched, “And the rockets’ red glare,” the veins were standing out in his neck, his face became flushed and his voiced cracked like Andy Hardy asking the Judge for the keys to the Packard.

Sensing I was looking at him, he gasped and said “I love this country.”

“Me too,” I said sadly, stuffing a program in his mouth.

You take your average citizen. He sings on maybe ten or twelve occasions a year and does not have what is normally called your “trained voice.” He can make “Happy Birthday to Marvin” (if they start low) or “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot” and maybe a chorus of the “Beer Barrel Polka” with a few beers, but beyond that he is limited.

Me? It is my experience that everytime I go from the “twilight’s last gleaming” to “the ramparts we watched” there is pain on the inside of my right leg, so I do everyone a favor by just mouthing the words. Invariably, everywhere I go, I am seated next to Beverly Sills, who comes down on “land of the free” with two notes. (The latter reached only the ears of a springer spaniel in New England.)

As I was setting down these thoughts I wondered who wrote the music to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and went to my reference book. Ironically, the music was an old English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” (Obviously, the drunks could sing the melody, but they had trouble with Anacreon.)

I personally believe there are a lot of patriotic Americans around who would like to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in its entirety, but who are discriminated against because they are bluebirds (singers with a range of one octave).

Would it be unreal to have one national anthem with two melodies? One for the traditionalists who can also sing Bacharach’s “Alfie” without fainting, and a simple tune for those of us who sing in the cracks in the piano?

To the 3,085 ball players who chew tobacco, this could mean a lot.


Funny, eh? And the NHI is going ballistic just because Geneva’s rendition of Lupang Hinirang was not fast enough. Geez! Yes I know, the law says it should be sung with a marching tempo but personally, I like the slow version of our national anthem – it has more feeling and helps me ruminate more about the words thus making me more patriotic towards our country when it is sung that way.

In line with this, go check out the mp3 I uploaded in my music link. It’s my favorite rendition of the USA’s national anthem which was sung by Robert Downey Jr. who, in my opinion, has a great voice but hasn’t been well-recognized yet as a great singer. (If my internet connection is faster, I would gladly upload the songs from his album “The Futurist” but for now, go search for his name in limewire and you just might be surprised at how good he sounds.)
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