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5 things you might not know about 'The Star-Spangled Banner'

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

On March 3, 1931, Francis Scott Key's poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was officially recognized as the United States' national anthem. Key first wrote his iconic poem after the battle of Fort McHenry on Sep. 13, 1814, but it didn't become the national anthem until over 100 years later.



Here are five fun facts that you may not know about the patriotic song:

When we sing it, we're actually singing a very British song


The tune comes from "To Anacreon In Heaven," a song that was commonly performed at a high-class British social club in London. 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.

The British thought the flag from the song was a sight for sore eyes

One of the seamen on a British ship during the War of 1812 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.

Whitney Houston's version hit the Billboard Top 100...twice

The singer first astounded audiences with her rendition of the patriotic song 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, Houston's version was rereleased in the wake of 9/11 and spent another 16 weeks on the chart.



Another well-known singer of the anthem is Janine Stange, who has performed the anthem in all 50 states.

It got a cinema-worthy makeover in 2013

In honor of the song's 200th anniversary in 2013, the July 4 celebration on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol featured a brand new arrangement by composer 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 Jurassic Park and Star Wars themes.
Related Topics:
society distraction watercooler 4th of july music u.s. & world history

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