National Anthem: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the Star Spangled Banner

PHOTO: Singer Christina Aguilera sings the National Anthem during Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium, Feb. 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.
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While it's the song that is recited before major political and sporting events, "The Star Spangled Banner" didn't officially become the country's national anthem until 1931. President Herbert Hoover signed the congressional resolution on March 3, 1931. Here's a look at five things you didn't know about the "The Star Spangled Banner."

PHOTO: American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key writer of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' seen here in this illustration from 1805.
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Lyrics Come From a Poem

"The Star Spangled Banner" was written in Baltimore on Sept. 14, 1814 as "Defense of Fort McHenry" by lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key. It was to celebrate the victory against the British in the battle of Fort McHenry in the war of 1812.

PHOTO: The melody Francis Scott Key used for his star spangled banner song was the popular English tune known as "To Anacreon in Heaven", heard in the anacreontic song.
www.amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner
Melody Set to Old English Tune

The song is set to "To Anacreon in Heaven" – a song written by John Stafford Smith. The song was for the London men's social club, the Anacreontic Society. The club was named after Anacreon, a Greek court poet.

PHOTO: A replica of the famous flag Francis Scott Key witnessed "by the dawn's early light" is raised by newly naturalized citizens during a US Naturalization Ceremony for 17 active duty military candidates Sept. 24, 2007 at the Fort McHenry National Monu
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Miltary Anthem

The Navy and Army used "The Star Spangled Banner" for ceremonial purposes by the 1900s, according to the Smithsonian. The Secretary of the Navy instructed the song to be played at the raising of the flag on July 26, 1889.

PHOTO: American poet and attorney Francis Scott Key's original handwritten draft for "The Star Spangled Banner," written in 1814 during the War of 1812.
Frederic Lewis/Getty Images
More than One Verse

While even the best singer has trouble getting through the anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" is actually comprised of a total of four verses – each ending with the line, "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Here's the complete version:

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream, 'Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a Country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation! Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto - "In God is our trust," And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Song Difficult for Even Trained Singer

Superstars from Christina Aguilera to Michael Bolton have had trouble with the song. The song is difficult because it calls for an enormous vocal range, including the ability to sing a vowel on the highest note of the piece -- on "free" -- which physically strains the throat.

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