Both from a musical standpoint and from the standpoint of the lyrics, I like "The Star-Spangled Banner" much better than Joseph Byrd does ("National Anathema," July 1). "O say" is a marvelous conversational beginning, and there is an electrifying tension in the vision of prisoner Key straining his eyes from the foredeck of a British ship through the dawn.
Joseph is right, it is a war song. But at least the War of 1812 was a war of defense, unlike almost all our other wars (many). The song is about defending our homeland against the invader. Currently such a song would be more appropriately used by the Iraqi or Afghan resistance to U.S. occupation.
Two Fourth of Julys ago my 9-year-old grandson Nathan and I fixed that at a celebration by playing Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" simultaneously on two trumpets. The result is sinister, like the Guernica.
But I agree with Joseph. Though it has an imperialist image in it (which the SSB doesn't), "America the Beautiful" would make a less awkward national anthem. And it would sound much better at ballgames -- not egotistical, more like a grace before a meal.
Ellen Taylor, Petrolia
The author of your July 1 cover story omitted what I consider to be the most patriotic of all tunes -- "The Stars and Stripes Forever," by John Philip Sousa in 1896.
It even has lyrics -- not "be kind to your web-footed friends," but some composed by Sousa himself in 1898. However, they apply to only a portion of the total score.
Everyone recognizes this tune immediately when the band starts to play it in a parade, theater or concert hall. I even dance a polka to it!
Ken Hoard, Eureka
Thank you for the excellent piece by Joseph Byrd on the national anthem. He mentioned that "God Bless America" came from a World War I revue by Irving Berlin, but didn't mention that the revue's name was "Yip Yap Yaphank." Anything with a title like deserved to be the flop that it was.
Winfield A. Shoemaker, McKinleyville
Sweet Spot: Ellen Taylor wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.