Better Sing the Anthem Correctly in Indiana

Better Sing the Anthem Correctly in Indiana January 10, 2012

A legislator in Indiana thinks the government should tell us how we must sing certain songs. State Sen. Vaneta Becker has actually submitted a bill that would impose fines for not singing the Star Spangled Banner in a government-approved manner.

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, has introduced a bill that would set specific “performance standards” for singing and playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.

The law also would cover private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers.

Performers would have to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.

But just what is appropriate? Would Jimi Hendrix’s electric version make the grade? Are Christina Aguilera’s vocal gymnastics a fineable offense?

That’s unclear. What is and what is not “acceptable,” according to Becker’s bill, would be determined by the State Department of Education, with input from the Commission for Higher Education.

Becker said she would expect the guidelines to require that the national anthem be sung with the usual lyrics to the traditional melody — “the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country.”

The bill would also require all schools to keep recordings of every instance where the anthem is sung for at least two years. Let’s not mince words here. Becker is a demagogic moron and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a voting booth, much less in a legislature. Bills like this make my head hit the desk. Are we that fucking shallow in this country? The answer, sadly, is far too often yes. Someone should take away her freedom fries and liberty cabbage.

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  • josephmccauley

    You haven’t heard my family sing “Happy Birthday”. It would be a crime to record them singing the anthem.

    You may need to make a new category: Get a Life

  • shouldbeworking

    She missed a very important clause. the anthem MUST be sung in American.Gawd forbid if anyone dared to sing it in Spanish, English or French. Send those people straight to Gitmo!

  • cainch

    Just those small-government, “Don’t tread on me” Republicans at it again.

  • imrryr
  • zippythepinhead

    You can’t appreciate the Star Spangled Banner until you’ve heard it in the original Klingon.

  • To me, this just seems like another example of wrapping oneself in the flag to prove one’s patriotism. Okay, the flag in this case is musical, but proposing legislation that mandates one particular rendition of the anthem is really just telling everyone that your opinion of what is and isn’t patriotic form is more correct than theirs.

    Andrew Sullivan did a good little series about whether the Star Spangled Banner ought to be sung triumphantly:

    I wonder how many of these versions of the national anthem would be raising $25 if sung in an Indiana with such legislation passed.

    Finally, such legislation makes me shudder and think of the edicts of repressive regimes (communist, monarchical, and fascist ones) that try to ossify and triumphalize the hymns of the state. Much like the right’s crazed witch-hunt of politicians not wearing flag pins to prove their patriotism (with as much rationale as in North Korea for wearing theirs there) to calling for the flag code to become law in order to show their patriotism (while constantly breaking several tenets of the flag code in the name of patriotism) to pushing for silly resolutions that reiterate what the national motto is, and more, I keep feeling like some on the right would like to move the US in the direction of a religious authoritarian state that conforms to their narrow definitions (none of which are likely to agree with each other) about what is “correct”.

  • Larry

    The answer is obvious. It is to be sung like jesus sang it as he was writing the Constitution.

  • joes

    Ed, you missed the part where your own state of Michigan has had a similar law on the books since 1931!

    Massachusetts and Michigan both prohibit using “The Star-Spangled Banner” as dance music, an exit march or as part of a musical medley. Both states also ban adding “embellishment or addition in the way of national or other melodies.” The law covers all public places, as well as theaters, movie theaters, restaurants and cafes.

    In Michigan, where the law has been on the books since 1931, violators can be charged with a misdemeanor.

  • MikeMa

    What a maroon. She probably heard Rosanne Barr and got pissed. Instead of calling on Barr to never sing again, (a laudable suggestion on many levels) this asswipe is writing laws?

    What would be the penalty for studying the anthem and its use as a political or social tool? Would playing Barr’s rendition result in a fine?

    Clearly this is patriotic pablum. The woman ought to be laughed out of session. Ridicule is perfect for this crap.

  • Blondin

    Rosanne Barr & Ozzy Osborne would be in big trouble.

  • helenaconstantine

    You can hear here how it is supposed to be sung, though I somehow doubt it’s what Becker has in mind:

  • ArtK

    Setting standards for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in schools probably does not violate the Constitution, said David Orentlicher, a professor of constitutional law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

    Really? The government punishing someone for their artistic expression is ok? What Constitution do they teach at IU?

  • John Hinkle

    Evansville is really close to Kentucky. Something to think about.

  • D. C. Sessions

    In Michigan, where the law has been on the books since 1931, violators can be charged with a misdemeanor.

    I do so dearly hope that someone, in the course of the last 80 years, responded by performing in the only way that is safe:

    With a period of silence.

    “It is against the law in the State of Michigan to sing The Star Spangled Banner the ‘wrong’ way. Not wanting to violate the law, I won’t. Please join me in not singing it ‘wrong.'”

  • cayborduin

    Just went to her website – this woman has been in the Indiana legislature since 1981.

  • MikeMa


    I wonder if she fears a teabagger challenge and wanted to lock up the insane, anti-constitution vote before it slipped away?

    I cannot take time at work to look at her legislative record, but has she got a history of ignorant lawmaking?

  • Oh, crap! I have to take singing lessons AGAIN?

    Is NOT singing it okay, or would there be a little man with a clip-board who goes around taking names of those who lip-sync?

  • gshevlin

    Based on this ludicrous attempt to introduce government approval of singing, she has been an elected representative at least 32 years too long.

    The right defence to nonsense like this is to simply claim that you are engaging in satire or parody. That should make her head explode…

  • Next on the agenda: Requiring everyone to wrap their heads in the flag and bow down facing Washington while chanting the pledge of allegiance three times a day.

  • lordshipmayhem

    Oh say can you see

    My eyes

    If you can

    Then my hair’s too short

    Or we could sing the official Canadian national anthem:


  • doktorzoom

    Laurie Anderson Got it right:

    “The words are great–just a bunch of questions asked during a fire.”

  • peterh

    Every day we hear of another beady-eyed do-gooder popping up to do what’s best for us whether we want it or no.

  • Stevarious

    Requiring everyone to wrap their heads in the flag and bow down facing Washington while chanting the pledge of allegiance three times a day.

    Nope, nope, gotta be SIX times a day. Can’t let the terrorists win!

  • slc1

    Rather then trying to impose some sort of “politically correct” way of singing the Star Spangled Banner, which is a terrible melody to begin with (apparently it was originally a drinking song), I suggest replacing it with something more singable, such as Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, with, perhaps, a slightly revised libretto.

  • MikeMa

    Wrapping heads in a flag sounds like the teabagger hajib.

  • kermit.

    slc1 – “I suggest replacing it with something more singable, such as Columbia the Gem of the Ocean”

    No, no. Too pompous. More importantly, some teabaggers might get confused and think it’s about the country Columbia. I suggest “This land is your land” by Woody Guthrie. Not only is it a better tune, but we might be able to swing it past the GOP legislators before any of them hear the later verses.

  • slc1

    Re kermit @ #26

    Oh, but doncha know that Mr. Guthrie was a left wing pinko commie (or fellow traveler thereof). Guaranteed to cause the tea baggers to foam at the mouth. End snark.

    As I said, perhaps some modifications to the libretto of Columbia would be in order (e.g. replace Columbia with America). It is, at least, a singable melody.

  • acroyear

    Such a law was on the books in Massachusetts in the 1940s during the war, and Stravinsky himself got in trouble with the police over it in 1944 in Boston with his own arrangement of the work, which he then opted not to play (though to draw attention to the injustice, he did have the rumor spread that he was arrested over it, producing a fake mug-shot and all – the publicity led to the law eventually being overturned).

    Stravinsky’s version, like his own take on Happy Birthday, is quite brilliant.

  • d cwilson

    Setting standards for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in schools probably does not violate the Constitution, said David Orentlicher, a professor of constitutional law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

    Remind me to never study constitutional law at IU.

  • ebotebo

    I have contacted Indiana State Senator Vaneta Becker and demand that she change the way in which she spells her name. Rather than Vaneta, which is obviously improper, I have declared that she spell her name Veneta as the people of the Oregon town spell the name of their small community. I will not take no for an answer!!

  • ebotebo


  • anandine

    Someone should paste a copy of the first amendment to the inside of her office door.

  • whheydt

    One wonders how the lunatic would react to someone singing “To Anacreon in Heaven”…the *original* words that go with that tune. (I have a CD with a very nice recording of Oak, Ash & Thorn singing it.)

    Of course, this nut case probably thinks that the last two words of the anthem are “play ball!”

    –W. H. Heydt

    Old Used Programmer

  • Scott Hanley

    Is the Naked Gun version really any worse than what I heard before the BCS championship game last night? Good thing Louisiana isn’t enforcing a law like this.

  • Scott Hanley

    Huh. Since when does pasting a URL embed the entire video in Ed’s blog?

  • MikeMa

    @Scott Hanley,

    Software upgrade?

  • exdrone

    What is it called when you ritualistically repeat a formulaic set of words in a standardized way for the purpose of invoking something considered divine in nature? Oh yeah, an incantation.

  • Michael Heath

    Scott Hanley writes:

    Good thing Louisiana isn’t enforcing a law like this.

    Not because he missed a couple of the high notes, but because Anthony Laciura sang the anthem in a distinctly eye-talian accent. What’s next? A Kenyan rendition?

  • Michael Heath

    Scott Hanley asks:

    Since when does pasting a URL embed the entire video in Ed’s blog?

    I’m pretty sure since Ed moved his blog from ScienceBlogs to FreeThoughtsBlogs a couple of months back.

  • d cwilson

    What’s next? A Kenyan rendition?

    Don’t be silly. Everyone knows that Kenyans can only sing the National Anthem backwards. It’s part of the anti-colonialism that is hardwired into their genes.

  • jnorris

    First: sing all four verses every time.

    Second: this the national anthem. Methinks only Congress can set standards for performing the SSB.

    Third: Third: she should be required to sing it alone, without music, without teleprompter, without notes, live in the Indiana legislature chamber before the full House and Senate.

  • Doug Little

    I for one like the artistic interpretation of the national anthem by individual performers, putting their particular twist to it actually shows greater patriotism IMO. Anybody can sing it in a second based on the original score, it takes far more effort on behalf of the performer to make it into something that, for them, is deeply personal and means more.

  • katie

    In addition to the utter corruptness and idiocy of this bill, I don’t think Senator Walker has ever had a singing lesson in her life. The reason the Star-Spangled Banner gets mangled so badly is because it’s impossible to sing properly. Even divas struggle and she expects schoolkids and drunk people at ballgames to get it?

  • briandavis

    Small government as conceived by small minds.

  • Emu Sam

    It’s probably appropriate to share some of the lyrics of “To Anacreon in Heaven” to the same tune.

    To Anacreon in Heaven, where he sat in full glee

    A few sons of harmony sent a petition

    That he their patron and inspirer would be

    When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian.

    “Voice, fiddle, and flute

    No longer be mute.

    I’ll lend ye my name and inspire ye to boot.

    And besides, I’ll instruct ye, like me, to entwine

    The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.”

    Drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll of the 1700s, with specific reference to no children resulting from sex (“Idalia will boast but of tenantless shades”).

  • uzza

    Oh, say, can you see, Becker having a fit,

    at us kids on her lawn, she’s so rabidly screaming?

    Our anthem is all wrong,and we don’t give a shit,

    and we sing it our way, not the way she is deeming.

    And if she had her way, she would make us all pay,

    make laws, in the night, tell us all what to say.

    O say, does our freedom of speech still apply?

    It’s the land of the free, she can fuck off and die.

  • The problem with the anthem isn’t that it’s impossible to sing, it’s that it wasn’t meant to be performed solo.