Dolly Merritt: Choosy about how to sing the anthem

Here it comes, Independence Day, and I'm preparing to brace myself - once again - for the next performance of the national anthem.

It's my music teacher's fault. Ever since third grade when I was in the glee club and learned about the right way to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," I've been listening to an error too often committed by amateur and professional singers alike when singing the song.

It happens during the seventh line, when "Oh say does that star-spangled ba-a-ner-er yet wave," is sung. It's not "ba-a-ner-er; it's "ba-ner-er." Not four syllables; only three.

OK, that's a little picky, you might say, but I'm driving myself and everybody around me crazy, proclaiming, "That's wrong; that's wrong," every time I hear the mistake.

When Francis Scott Key wrote the words, he had no clue his poem would ultimately become our country's national anthem - which it did in 1931, the result of a congressional resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover.

So here we are in the 21st century, and we still can't get it right. The difficult 1½-octave melody is messed up consistently by forgotten lyrics and mixed-up chords when performed at various venues, including baseball, basketball and football games. So much so, performers sometimes resort to pre-recordings and lip-syncing.

Adding to the confusion are various interpretations of the music represented by rock, rhythm and blues, country and other musical genres.

When singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano delivered his rendition of the anthem in 1968 at a World Series game in Detroit, his non-traditional performance ignited controversy. Since then, steady streams of celebrities have delivered their versions of the song.

They've included guitarist Jimi Hendrix's performances of the national anthem, a routine part of his set list from 1968 till his death in 1970; Marvin Gaye's soul presentation during an 1983 NBA All-Star Game; Roseanne Barr's screeching performance in 1990 at a San Diego Padres' baseball game; and Whitney Houston's version - my favorite - during the 1991 Super Bowl, released as a single recording hitting the music charts both in 1991 and 2001.

Though I'm not always enamored with certain musical genres' interpretations of the song, I can't expect everyone to enjoy my preferences.

My main gripe is "professional" performers who don't get it right. Take pop singer Christina Aguilera, for instance, who sang the wrong lyrics prior to the opening of the 2011 Super Bowl. Didn't she rehearse the song beforehand?

She made headlines when she swapped the national anthem's fourth line, "O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming," with a variation of the second line, "What so proudly we watched at the twilight's last gleaming."

Though I never heard her faux pas, I'll bet she sang "ba-a-ner-er" instead of "ba-ner-er."

And that really makes me crazy.

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