Oh, Jos?, Can You Sing? Oy, vey
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Oh, Jos?, Can You Sing? Oy, vey

"The Star-Spangled Banner," the quintessential patriotic song, hasn’t always been sung in English.

There are versions of it in Spanish, Samoan, Polish, German, Yiddish, and Latin. More than 400 recorded versions in English are listed on www.allmusic.com, including the one Jimi Hendrix made popular in 1970.

The latest version in Spanish, a CD titled "Nuestro Himno" ("Our Anthem"), was released at the end of April ‘006 to coincide with pro-immigration reform rallies that were held across the United States on May 1. Forty performers sing on the CD, among them Gloria Trevi, a Madonna-like Mexican singer, and hip-hop star Pitbull.

It touched a raw nerve with conservatives, one of whom even called it the "Illegal Alien Anthem."




photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

George Key, the great-great grandson of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the original lyrics to the anthem in 1814, said on National Public Radio upon the release of the controversial version, "It’s a terrible thing. They should go some place else and sing it."

The performers don’t understand the context in which Scott Key wrote it, he added.

Ironically, the CD was produced by British-born Adam Kidron, CEO of Urban Box Office, who said on NPR that its purpose was to make the anthem "more relevant to more people" and drew a parallel to the Vatican’s allowing Mass to be celebrated in languages other than Latin.

The first Spanish-language version, "La Bandera de las Estrellas" ("The Flag with Stars"), was commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Education in 1919. A Yiddish version came out in 1943, published by The Educational Alliance of New York (a garbled version sung on "Madame Bertha Hart’s Talent Show" can be found on www.yiddishradioproject.org/exhibits/history

 

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