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7 things you might not know about 'The Star Spangled Banner'

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" on Veterans Day 2013. (AP)

On Sept. 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key penned a poem that would go on to become "The Star Spangled Banner." Here are seven fun facts that you may not have known about our national anthem:

  • "The Star-Spangled Banner" is over 200 years old
    Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics of our national anthem in the morning after the battle of Fort McHenry on the evening of September 13, 1814, near the end of the War of 1812.

  • It got a cinema-worthy makeover last year
    Tap to watch video if you're viewing on the news app.

    In honor of the 200th anniversary, last year's July 4 celebration on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol featured a brand new arrangement by John Williams. It must have been hard to breathe new life into the song while keeping its spirit. But if anyone could do it, it's the man who brought you the classic Harry Potter and Star Wars themes.

  • Key almost never saw that the flag was still there

    This painting depicts Francis Scott Key seeing the American flag flying over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor the day after he witnessed the British bombardment of the fort.

    As a prominent lawyer, he was sent to negotiate the release of a doctor. He was successful, but the British insisted that they stay the night while the battle at Fort McHenry was waged nearby. If they had let them go right away, Key would never have been inspired to write the lyrics the next morning.

  • The British agreed it was a sight for sore eyes
    One of the seamen on a British ship saw the same flag as Key and admitted that it was a "superb and splendid ensign." It's no wonder they both noticed it: The American commander had ordered that a flag be raised that was large enough to be seen by the British. Classic example of that "Go big or go home" attitude we love here in the U.S.

  • You can thank the Red Sox and the Cubs when you sing it before a sporting event

    Members of the military hold a giant American flag during the singing of the National Anthem on opening day for a game between the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs.

    You might have known the tradition of a pre-game performance of the song has roots in the World Wars, but did you know the first professional game to officially feature the song was the 1918 World Series? It wasn't until after World War II, though, that singing the anthem before games became commonplace.

  • When we sing it, we're actually singing a very British song
    The tune comes from "Anacreon In Heaven," the official song of a high-class British social club for musicians. Francis Scott Key had set lyrics to the song before, but lyrics of "The Defense of Fort McHenry" (later retitled as "The Star-Spangled Banner") became the most associated with this music tune.

    Tap to watch video if you're viewing on the news app.

  • Whitney Houston's version hit the Billboard Top 100...twice
    Arguably the best ever performance of the song, the singer first astounded audiences with her rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl. Her recording of the song peaked at 20 and spent 11 weeks on Billboard's Top 100. A decade later, the song was rereleased in the wake of 9/11 and spent another 16 weeks on the chart.

    Tap to watch video if you're viewing on the news app.

    Another well-known singer of the anthem is Janine Stange, who has performed the anthem in all 50 states.
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society distraction watercooler 4th of july music u.s. & world history

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