should "Lean On Me" replace "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the US national anthem?

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inspired by this LA Times piece, which makes a comprehensive case both for "Lean on Me" and against "TSSB"

Bill Withers’ 1972 soul ballad may seem like a curious choice. It has none of the qualities we associate with national anthems. It’s a modest song that puts on no airs. It speaks in plain musical language, without a trace of bombast, in a tidy arrangement that unfolds over a few basic chords. It doesn’t march to a martial beat or rise to grand crescendos. The lyrics hold no pastoral images of fruited plains or oceans white with foam, no high-minded invocations of liberty or God. “Lean on Me” is a deeply American song — but it’s not, explicitly at least, a song about America.

Yet it has long been a kind of national anthem. “Lean on Me” is one of just a handful of songs to have reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts in two different versions. (Withers’ original hit No. 1 in 1972; 15 years later, Club Nouveau took a spunky electro-R&B version to the top of the Hot 100.) It is surely among the most widely sung American songs of the past half-century. It is performed by church choirs, by school choirs, by college a capella groups, by street-corner doo-wop quintets, by YouTube’s bedroom balladeers, by the United States Navy Band. It’s ecumenical, transcending genres and eras and generations and political affiliations. It has been covered by Stevie Wonder and Al Green and Clara Ward, by Jimmy Buffett and Bon Jovi, by Shawn Mendes and Nick Jonas. Jazz pianists have swung it, Imagine Dragons have mauled it. It’s been sung on “Empire” and on “Glee”; it was the theme song to a Morgan Freeman movie called, yes, “Lean on Me.”

It is the kind of song that gets dragged out on heady occasions, to impart a sense of significance and solemnity. It was performed by Mary J. Blige at the Lincoln Memorial, in a concert marking President Obama’s inauguration. Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, and, I regret to report, Kid Rock, performed it in 2010, on the “Hope for Haiti Now” earthquake relief telethon. Garth Brooks sang it, after a fashion, in a medley with “America the Beautiful,” at a 2011 Kennedy Center gala whose attendees included four former U.S. presidents.

please try to honor the poll options and not get bogged down by whether or not america should exist (in our respective hearts we hold our answers)

Poll Results

OptionVotes
no, we should keep "the star-spangled banner" because it's bad and america deserves it 16
yes 15
no, we should keep "the star-spangled banner" because I think it's good, actually 7
no, it should be (suggest song) instead 6


k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:49 (three weeks ago) link

i'd actually be jazzed to stand for the thing for once

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:52 (three weeks ago) link

no, we should keep "the star-spangled banner" because I think it's good, actually
no, we should keep "the star-spangled banner" because it's bad and america deserves it

my opinion lies somewhere between these two

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:52 (three weeks ago) link

Having difficulty imagining singing "Lean On Me" - great as it is - before a Pirates game

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:53 (three weeks ago) link

voted 'keep, it's good' - I'm British and we need to sort our own house out (with Jerusalem obv) before sniping at America's perfectly good anthem - TSSB has a MUCH better development/climax/resolution than GSTQ, musically speaking, and I don't see what's so bad about it. Lean On Me has too much sadness and pathos, it's an anthem for truly the end of the world, which this ideally isn't

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:53 (three weeks ago) link

keep "the star-spangled banner" because some song has to be butchered at every sports event and it might as well be that one

jmm, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:53 (three weeks ago) link

It speaks in plain musical language, without a trace of bombast, in a tidy arrangement that unfolds over a few basic chords. It doesn’t march to a martial beat or rise to grand crescendos.

this writer truly does not understand what an anthem is

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:54 (three weeks ago) link

the writer makes clear that these qualities are what makes it an unorthodox choice!

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:56 (three weeks ago) link

America's anthem is a British drinking song w/ new words, we need a better one

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:57 (three weeks ago) link

^^gets it

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:57 (three weeks ago) link

maybe a T-Pain song with lyrics fitted from one of our less racist Founding fathers?

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:57 (three weeks ago) link

I'm appalled by how much I loved that Club Nouveau version as a kid.

nashwan, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:58 (three weeks ago) link

i mean could you imagine what kind of people we'd have to be surrounded by if this were even remotely possible? beautiful people instead of ugly, evil people. never going to happen.

carin' (map), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 14:59 (three weeks ago) link

xpost I didn't realize that wasn't the original version until my dad's eyes bugged out when I said that thought out loud.

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:00 (three weeks ago) link

fine, i guess the writer does understand what an anthem is...so why not find another one that fits those criteria, haha

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:01 (three weeks ago) link

never going to happen.

this is a poll about what should be not what could be!

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:01 (three weeks ago) link

How about “Lovely Day” but instead of “Lovely Day” it’s drunken frat boys chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A...”

Philip Nunez, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:03 (three weeks ago) link

all the drunken sports fans passing out trying to hold that note longer than their buddies would be a real spectacle, it's true

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:04 (three weeks ago) link

https://ww.youtube.com/watch?v=mNUaAMMmp1c

neith moon (ledge), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:07 (three weeks ago) link

damnit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNUaAMMmp1c

neith moon (ledge), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:07 (three weeks ago) link

it occurs to me that a decent working definition of 'liberal' could be 'loves nationalism when it comes down to it tbh'

carin' (map), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:07 (three weeks ago) link

map otm

I think "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a good tune (I know that's a controversial opinion). It's definitely militaristic and nationalistic but that's the point of having a national anthem in the first place. "Lean On Me" is one of the best songs ever and it's thoroughly American as a song, but I don't think America has earned it as an anthem. Maybe if we were consistently a nation of sentimental liberals who have each other's back, which we're not.

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:08 (three weeks ago) link

xpost

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:08 (three weeks ago) link

it occurs to me that a decent working definition of 'liberal' could be 'loves nationalism when it comes down to it tbh'

― carin' (map), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:07 (one minute ago) bookmarkflaglink

this aimed at me? i'm speaking purely musically here. yes the sentiments are beautiful but it isn't a feasible anthem? imagine 'imagine' was the uk anthem lol

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:10 (three weeks ago) link

and yeah a working definition of 'liberal' is 'can get behind the sentiments in 'lean on me''

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:11 (three weeks ago) link

"Lean On Me" is incredible, but would be damaged and flattened out if made official and forced into all these other contexts where the anthem shows up. whereas somehow i think "This Land Is Your Land" could survive.

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:12 (three weeks ago) link

I don't hate The Star-Spangled Banner as a song, but the whole point of national anthems, like nations, is that they're for dicks, which is why Lean On Me or any other song of tender humanity would be wrong

Mein Skampf (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:13 (three weeks ago) link

Crut already made my point, lol sorry

Mein Skampf (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:15 (three weeks ago) link

My nomination despite the Britishness

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBGc5h1yWHQ

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:17 (three weeks ago) link

Replace it with "Slumerican Shitizen"

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:17 (three weeks ago) link

if america remade itself according to the principles of "lean on me," sure

star spangled banner sucks and we've earned it

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:18 (three weeks ago) link

lol in the recent series of 13 Reasons Why they ended the, like, tensest episode of all with Melt The Guns and it was the worst closing-credits music choice in TV history

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:19 (three weeks ago) link

Lean On Me has too much sadness and pathos, it's an anthem for truly the end of the world

whut

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:20 (three weeks ago) link

"No Thugs In Our House" perhaps closer to the pulse of the American psyche

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:21 (three weeks ago) link

i just have this vision of the citizens huddling together in their caves by candlelight singing 'lean on me' as the radiation sickness picks them off one by one

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:21 (three weeks ago) link

Easier to imagine the end of the world than a society based on siblinghood

Mein Skampf (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:22 (three weeks ago) link

anthems are for sports events and occasions of pomp and circumstance; they don't really matter but they are intended to amp up glory rather than celebrate siblinghood; if they can do both, more's the better. anthems don't really matter at the end of it and they don't really have any impact on society, but it is a fun question to think about

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:25 (three weeks ago) link

ITT some people show they didn't follow the whole "did you know there's a verse in the Star-Spangled Banner that celebrates slavery" controversy

anyway, I already recorded the real national anthem:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA9UnZUKveY

shout-out to his family (DJP), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:26 (three weeks ago) link

^^^^ goddamn

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:27 (three weeks ago) link

Lean On Your Bootstraps

Well, that's a fine howdy adieu! (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:28 (three weeks ago) link

Easier to imagine the end of the world than a society based on siblinghood

which is why my backup in case "Lean on Me" falls through is "Kill the Poor"

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:30 (three weeks ago) link

'lift every voice and sing' would be a way better choice than 'lean on me'. agreed (and great performance obv)

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:30 (three weeks ago) link

ITT some people show they didn't follow the whole "did you know there's a verse in the Star-Spangled Banner that celebrates slavery" controversy

I'm aware of the verse in the original poem on which the anthem is based.

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:30 (three weeks ago) link

Reveal Your Uncool Conservative Beliefs Here fodder but "The Star-Spangled Banner" > "Lean On Me" musically speaking.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:30 (three weeks ago) link

i didn't know about that verse :(

Mein Skampf (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:31 (three weeks ago) link

why is there no option for "no anthems"

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:31 (three weeks ago) link

Give me mandatory disco sing-a-longs or give me death.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:32 (three weeks ago) link

Give me mandatory disco sing-a-longs or give me death.

― Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:32 (twenty-one seconds ago) bookmarkflaglink

'i feel love' can be yours, and 'left to my own devices' ours, and everyone wins

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:33 (three weeks ago) link

/remembers that Eric H is Canadian, not USAmerican

imago, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:34 (three weeks ago) link

anyway, I already recorded the real national anthem:

Don't mean to embarrass you here but this is not actually an embed of 'Bring Out The Katz'

nashwan, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 15:35 (three weeks ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9nnnM-__JQ

Dr X O'Skeleton, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:12 (three weeks ago) link

almost clicked but nah

this has been the best year fuiud (rip van wanko), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:29 (three weeks ago) link

thank you all for justifying this poll's existence

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:30 (three weeks ago) link

Eric, that's the second video I posted!

Ope, scrolled too fast.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:33 (three weeks ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePQ9_re7f1A

pomenitul, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:35 (three weeks ago) link

i sang really loud
until i riled up the crowd
and then a horse fell

budo jeru, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 21:43 (three weeks ago) link

Can't fuck with this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3qD1jKNYaU

peace, man, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 22:14 (three weeks ago) link

Without consulting social media or even reading the last 40+ posts itt I will now predict three possible reactions to this:

MAGA: Bad message! USA is not about "leaning" on anyone but picking yourself up by the bootstraps and ask not what your country can do for you and blah blah blah

Leftists: Hmm, can we make it say "call on me sister?"

Old libs: Hooray! I love Otis Redding

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 15 July 2020 22:17 (three weeks ago) link

I keep coming back to Lean On Me has too much sadness and pathos, it's an anthem for truly the end of the world tbh

shout-out to his family (DJP), Friday, 17 July 2020 17:15 (three weeks ago) link

It reminds me of the argument I had with someone years ago about the end of Orbital’s “Out There Somewhere Pt 2” and how he heard it as indescribably sad because the last melodic theme is made of descending notes, even though the entire coda is in a major key after close to 20 minutes of minor key, which really just goes to show that you can build up as much theorycrafting as you desire around how people respond to musical cues and someone is going to come along to be the glaring exception to conventional wisdom

shout-out to his family (DJP), Friday, 17 July 2020 17:20 (three weeks ago) link

i think the real problem for "lean on me" as an anthem is that the help we offer when we sing LoM must be freely and sincerely offered for the song to have the meaning it does. once made compulsory, it loses everything. in conclusion the answer is "use me."

Doctor Casino, Tuesday, 21 July 2020 04:56 (two weeks ago) link

Excellent point

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Tuesday, 21 July 2020 05:09 (two weeks ago) link

*doesn't watch a sporting event w/o belting Go Your Own Way at the top of their lungs first*

weekly shopper helper (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 21 July 2020 09:11 (two weeks ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Friday, 31 July 2020 00:01 (one week ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Saturday, 1 August 2020 00:01 (one week ago) link

I only just read the DJP's last post, of course "Out There Somewhere" is impossibly sad, it's longing for infinity and escape

À la recherche du scamps perdu (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 1 August 2020 00:25 (one week ago) link

It's tempered with other feelings tho sure

À la recherche du scamps perdu (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 1 August 2020 00:26 (one week ago) link

should "Take On Me" replace "Funeral Fog" as the Norwegian national anthem?

the burrito that defined a generation, Saturday, 1 August 2020 03:52 (one week ago) link

should "literally anybody else" replace "burrito" as ILX poster

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 04:10 (one week ago) link

should "sucking my dick" replace "smoking meth" as your mother's main mouth use

the burrito that defined a generation, Saturday, 1 August 2020 04:28 (one week ago) link

wtf? flagging post.

Doctor Casino, Saturday, 1 August 2020 04:32 (one week ago) link

be sure to get both insults!

the burrito that defined a generation, Saturday, 1 August 2020 04:34 (one week ago) link

well that took a turn.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Saturday, 1 August 2020 04:55 (one week ago) link

I'll tell ya who else took a turn... if you know what I mean... and I mean on my dong... like as in took a turn going down on that shit... if you catch my drift... *high fives Austin*

the burrito that defined a generation, Saturday, 1 August 2020 05:03 (one week ago) link

the burrito that defined a generation has been banned permanently again.

the burrito that defined a generation, Saturday, 1 August 2020 05:08 (one week ago) link

*high fives Austin*

listen up, you non-social distancing asshole. . .

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Saturday, 1 August 2020 05:27 (one week ago) link

A vocal range of an octave plus a fifth is too hard to sing, let’s replace it with a song that has a vocal range of *checks notes* an octave plus a fourth

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Saturday, 1 August 2020 14:19 (one week ago) link

it's been a minute since I listened to TSSB attentively but it's not just the range that makes it hard to sing right? aren't the intervals a pain in the ass?

the quar on drugs (Simon H.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 14:25 (one week ago) link

The sentiment that "we all need somebody to lean on" is about the least American sentiment I can imagine. Is the hope that we'd help to shift the culture?

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Saturday, 1 August 2020 15:12 (one week ago) link

that would be one case for it yes

the quar on drugs (Simon H.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 15:18 (one week ago) link

right now, "Lien On Me" would be more likely to succeed

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 15:22 (one week ago) link

when you're not solvent
i'll loan you cash
with a good APR

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 15:25 (one week ago) link

Lean On In

rob, Saturday, 1 August 2020 15:32 (one week ago) link

it's been a minute since I listened to TSSB attentively but it's not just the range that makes it hard to sing right? aren't the intervals a pain in the ass?

Not really. The intervals are all either step-wise motion or arpeggios within a major key. There’s nothing harmonically challenging in the context of Western/British music. In fact, “Lean On Me” has a larger leap in it where you have to go up a major 10th to transition from the verse to the chorus than anything in the SSB.

shout-out to his family (DJP), Saturday, 1 August 2020 16:00 (one week ago) link

not to mention there's something to be said for a piece of music you've heard thousands to millions of times in your life making it easier to navigate the melody, regardless of how challenging it is or isn't.

most people bomb the National Anthem not because the song is challenging, it's because they either a) have bad internal pitch and change keys unintentionally throughout the song, b) pick a key too high which will result in a comedy finish, or c) just can't fuckin' sing.

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 16:03 (one week ago) link

thanks for the breakdown I was coasting on iffy recall there xp

the quar on drugs (Simon H.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 16:04 (one week ago) link

course, I'm the type of asshole who will yell "flat!" when a quartet is singing it out of tune before a soccer game

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 16:04 (one week ago) link

I do think the aforementioned descending sixth followed by the raised subdominant in m.3 is more challenging than anything in e.g. "O Canada" or "God Save the Queen".

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 17:48 (one week ago) link

Couldn't you just go up by a major third rather than a 10th from the verse to the chorus of "Lean on Me".

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 17:51 (one week ago) link

?

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 17:51 (one week ago) link

The only reason it has a 'wide range' is because of the registral shift, which can easily be left out without changing anything in the key or harmony. Some notated versions already do this:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/halleonard-pagepreviews/HL_DDS_12696710WwyADl52k.png

I voted keep SSB bc good btw; just don't agree that it would not be harder to sing.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 17:58 (one week ago) link

Yeah there's really no reason to sing the first verse in the same octave as Bill does - indeed, when I play it, I do all the verses the same way. But I am not like a muso dude who knows things

Gin and Juice Newton (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 1 August 2020 18:14 (one week ago) link

song has a much greater impact starting in the lower octave, then jumping, for the first chorus.

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 18:19 (one week ago) link

Surely but it seems like it would be much easier to adapt for amateur group singing.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 18:32 (one week ago) link

It’s definitely harder to sing just because there is a lot more going on melodically; the question was “aren’t the intervals trickier” and my answer is “not really, there are just more of them”

shout-out to his family (DJP), Saturday, 1 August 2020 19:09 (one week ago) link

Haha OK

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 1 August 2020 19:17 (one week ago) link

itt: several incredibly accomplished, knowledgeable, well-trained, and talented musicians exhibit very little sympathy for non-musicians

pizzagnostic (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 1 August 2020 19:41 (one week ago) link

and then I posted some stuff too don't forget

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 19:57 (one week ago) link

you are a very good singer tho

pizzagnostic (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 1 August 2020 20:00 (one week ago) link

aw thanks. tbh i wasn't knocking what you said re: starting up an octave. it's just not my personal choice if I was singing it, but...you had a good point!

i'm mostly just catty about people who sing the anthems at sporting events but only cos I'm secretly jealous that I haven't been asked to do it yet!

XVI Pedicabo eam (Neanderthal), Saturday, 1 August 2020 20:05 (one week ago) link


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