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The Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner

It’s not a very well known fact but when many hymns were written, the lyrics and music were often written by two completely separate persons. The lyrics were often a poem in search of a tune. For instance, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key entitled "Defence of Fort M'Henry.”

Key’s poem was very much liked by those who read it. It was Key’s heart felt outpouring of his experience aboard a naval vessel as he witnessed, first-hand, the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, just outside of Baltimore.

Although Key’s poetic imagery was graphic and inspiring, the hymn had no music that could match the genius of the lyrics. It was great poetry but bulky and difficult to put to music.

At that time, there was a popular tune that was the official song of a gentleman’s club in England called The Anacreontic Society. The song was entitled: "The Anacreontic Song”, composed by John Stafford Smith. Key’s brother-in-law, Joseph H. Nicholson, heard the tune and noticed that the lyrics to “Defence of Fort M'Henry” and John Smith’s tune were a perfect fit.

The two were joined together and printed in a broadside (kind of like a flyer or a public notice) and newspapers all over the colonies were soon printing the new song. A publisher in Baltimore renamed it "The Star Spangled Banner" and, after a few minor changes, history was set on its course.