gettyimages 845798290 The Star Spangled Banner turns 203 today

A card stunt displays “NEVER FORGET” while the National Anthem plays before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on September 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)


by Abigail Hartley

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics that would later become our national anthem. Impress your friends and family (or annoy them, either way) with some trivia about America’s theme song:

  • “The Star Spangled Banner” requires such a large vocal range that it is widely regarded as one of the English language’s most difficult songs to sing. It spans more than one and a half octaves, well outside the range of the average person.


  • Why is it so hard to sing? It’s set to the tune of “The Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular English pub ballad. Basically, it was originally meant to be belted at the top of your lungs after three or four Newcastle Pale Ales, when you have the fortitude to hit those high Fs.


  • We only sing the first verse of the song. There are actually three more verses afterward, but none of them have quite the same zip as the one we know and love. Take a look at verse four:

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.

In addition, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a fifth verse in 1861 in opposition to slavery:

When our land is illum’d with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down, with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchain’d who our birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

  • “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t become our national anthem until 1931! President Herbert Hoover signed it into law during the Great Depression. Still didn’t make people like him, though.


  • The national anthem has been translated into many, many languages over the years. Here’s a sampling of some non-English renditions:


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