200 years of 'land of the free, home of the brave'

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) this week proposed a resolution marking the 200th year of the Francis Scott Key poem that later became the national anthem of the United States.

"The Star Spangled Banner tells the story of America — a story about triumph over great challenges and how ordinary people can change the world," Benishek said this week. "We all know the lines to this simple but extraordinary poem, and its words ring as true today as they did two centuries ago."

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His resolution, H.Con.Res. 87, recounts that the origin of the song is the Battle of Baltimore, a fight between U.S. and British troops during the War of 1812.

In the battle, Fort McHenry was subjected to more than a day of bombardment from British ships, spanning Sept. 13 and 14, 1814. After it ended, a huge American flag was raised over the fort.

"[A]n American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the siege from a British ship while negotiating the release of a captured American doctor," the resolution states. "Mr. Key wrote a four-stanza poem recounting the heroic defense of Fort McHenry and the city of Baltimore from invasion, representing a turning point in the War of 1812."

The first stanza of Key's poem was later adopted as the lyrics to the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Ironically, the tune used to carry Key's lyrics was lifted from "The Anacreontic Song," a British song from the late 1700s.

The song is notoriously hard to sing, but people routinely try at sporting events and other ceremonies. Whitney Houston's rendition at the Super Bowl in 1991 is one of the most popular versions of the song — she sang it less than two weeks after the Gulf War started.

But Jimi Hendrix did all right with it as well, at Woodstock in 1969.

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