Research Programs: Public Scholars

Period of Performance

6/1/2016 - 5/31/2017

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

O Say Can You Hear?: A Tuneful Cultural History of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

FAIN: FZ-231571-16

Mark Allan Clague
Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382)

A cultural and musical history of the national anthem composed by Francis Scott Key.

The story of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the story of the United States of America, yet many know little about the song and what is known is usually distorted by myth and misinformation. My book project—O Say Can You Hear? A Tuneful Cultural History of "The Star-Spangled Banner"—will share the forgotten musical history of Francis Scott Key's song and reveal how the song's story presents a surprising social history of the United States. It will be the first to reveal the full story of the anthem's music: how the version we think of as traditional today, grew over the song's first century. Similarly, Key's now famous lyric was just one of hundreds of American patriotic and protest songs written to this melody. Key's artistry thus offers all U.S. citizens the chance to examine what it means to be American. This book will inspire readers to answer Key's lyrical question for themselves—to show that like the song, America's democratic experiment is always in the process of becoming.

Media Coverage

Oh Say, How Much Do You Know about the National Anthem? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): David Jesse
Publication: Detroit Free Press
Date: 7/1/2016
Abstract: Article explores historical errors and misconceptions in popular understandings of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States.

New USS Silversides Submarine Exhibit Showcases Local Military Musicians (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Malachi Barrett
Date: 6/21/2016
Abstract: Preview and introductory article on the USS Silversides Museum exhibit "Instruments of War: A Tribute to Military Musicians" in Muskegon, MI that features the research of Prof. Mark Clague on the history of the U.S. national anthem.

Lucy Ann Lance July 4 Radio Show (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Lucy Ann Lance
Publication: Lucy Ann Lance Show
Date: 7/4/2016
Abstract: Radio interview on history of U.S. national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Banner Ballads: The Many Lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner (Media Coverage)
Publication: Gerald R. Ford Library
Date: 3/7/2017
Abstract: A talk by musicologist Mark Clague on the lyrical history of the tune known as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Is the National Anthem Racist? Beyond the Debate Over Colin Kaepernick (Media Coverage)
Publication: The New York Times
Date: 9/2/2016
Abstract: A discussion of the racial history of Francis Scott Key and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"Star Spangled Banner" Critics Miss the Point (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Mark Clague
Date: 8/31/2016
Abstract: A defense of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as an inherently racist song.

Anthem has been a channel for protests since song’s origins (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Jeff Karoub
Publication: Associated Press distributed nationally and reprinted in dozens of papers
Date: 10/2/2017
Abstract: Interview with Associated Press reporter about history of Francis Scott Key's anthem as a vehicle for protest.

Associated Products

O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (Book)
Title: O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of "The Star-Spangled Banner"
Author: Mark Allan Clague
Year: 2022
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat entry (039365138X)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 039365138X