About

In anticipation of a book of the same title—O Say Can You Hear—I’m sharing my research and insights on the music history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” here. Please comment to share your thoughts, experiences, reactions, ideas, and suggestions. I want to make the book the best that it can be and your input will help.

I am Mark Clague, an Associate Professor of Music History and American Culture, at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Director of the School’s American Music Institute. I’ve come to love the U.S. national anthem and its storied history in sharing these tales with my students, primarily as a way of illustrating how music in America has been used not just to symbolize who we are as citizens and as a nation, but to help us figure out what it means to be a citizen and a nation.

I am also board president of the non-profit Star-Spangled Music Foundation and, through this organization, as well as the U-M’s American Music Institute, I wam working with a variety of collaborators to spark a celebration of the anthem’s bicentennial in September 2014. We need financial and organizational support. Please contact us at starspangledmusic@gmail.com or ami@umich.edu.

2 Responses to About

  1. Mark Penskar says:

    Mark:

    At the Michigan Seminars in San Francisco yesterday, I mentioned the Wikipedia article about La Marseillaise. Given your interest in the reaction to Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of the SSB, you may be interested in the following statement under “In popular culture” in the Marseillaise article: “Jimi Hendrix during an 1967 Paris concert, played a psychedelic version of the anthem. A video recording of the concert was immediately confiscated by the French government due to the perceived insult to national heritage.” If this entry is correct, you may wish to contrast the French government’s reaction to Hendrix’s version of their anthem to what the US government did about Hendrix’s performances of the Star-Spangeld Banner.

    • Thanks for this tip Mark — I’ll check it out. A student recently brought another French Banner Connection to my attention. In 1923 a group of racist Americans attending the theater mocked a group of African Americans living in Paris in part by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In response and soon joined by others in the audience, the African Americans and their supporters sand “La Marseillaise.”

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