International sensation Fergie has apologized for her sultry, jazzy, downtempo take on the National Anthem - opening the NBA All-Star Game. If you have not heard it, you should take a two minutes and listen. Fergie took a beating on social media for her version of the Star Spangled Banner. Even stars didn’t hold back. SNL’s Leslie Jones tweeted, “Meanwhile back in the states... I leave for a couple of days and y’all lose your muthafucking mind!! Why did this happen? Not everyone supposed to do this y’all! You might as well should have ask me to sing. Wtf?!”
I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of Fergie’s version, either. But then I thought - hell, at least she took a chance. And that’s awesome, because you can’t make great art without taking chances. So, good for her. That being said - her rendition is still awkward. I’ve read that she was, perhaps, trying to emulate Marvin Gaye’s 1983 version of the Star Spangled Banner. I just listened Gaye’s take on the Anthem. Gaye’s version is also odd and not for me.
I’m not really going to go into if the Star Spangled Banner is racist, or not. Much has been written about that and if you want to learn more, you are one Google search away (but verse three, which is seldom sung, is pretty racist).
The Star Spangled Banner has a specific musical tone. Stray too far away and people get angry. Stray really far away and people get really angry. But, again, art can never be great art unless it has the capacity to anger, or frighten people. So, at the very least, I get what she was trying to do.
Fergie has since apologized, saying, “I've always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem, and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I'm a risk-taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn't strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best."
Her apology is also getting roasted but honestly, I’m fine with it. It’s just a song. And it was only a basketball game.
Though, to be honest, I actually thought Rosie O'Donnell's 1990 HATED comedic take on the song was … well, kind of funny. Not super funny. But kind of funny. And, obviously - not for everyone. She sang it at a baseball game. Her performance lampooned how fans behave during baseball games. And after all, they hired fucking Rosie O’Donnell - to sing! You know - professional comedian, satirist and performance artist Rosie O’Donnell. Honestly, what the hell were they expecting?
Look, all I’m saying is, I get there is a history to the Star Spangled Banner. And a tradition. And some folks want that history and tradition to be taken very, very seriously.
But … it’s only a song, after all. Fergie’s version of the song was fine. So was Marvin Gaye’s. So was Rosie’s. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe not for you. Maybe not even for me.
But just fine.
I’ve always looked on honoring the flag and standing for the national anthem as a basic premise that connotes a commitment to protect our freedoms guaranteed to us under our constitution. It’s also a symbol of reverence for our soldiers who protect us throughout the world. It’s never occurred to me not to stand as the national anthem is being played. I guess I’m just an old fashioned coot that has allowed current trends to pass me by. It apparently is just not “cool” or “hip” to celebrate freedom and to honor those who protect us.
I guess I have never been all that “cool.” I was one of those young kids who didn’t dodge the draft, and even though I was married with a child on the way and past draft age, I still volunteered to serve in the military. Initially in the Army and then 12 years in the National Guard. I was a lawyer, but enlisted in the infantry. I still have and wear my dog tags given to me by the Army back in 1966. But I wasn’t all that special. Thousands of young men did the same. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
But I guess being patriotic is passé in this day and age. It’s not just many overpaid NFL football players who can’t seem to take a few moments to honor those who serve and protect our country. Have you been to a college or pro game recently? Just take a look around you while the Star-Spangled Banner is playing. As sports writer John Branch wrote in The New York Times this week, maybe we ought to turn the cameras around on the fans. “Those who have spent a lot of time in stadiums and arenas know that they are rarely sanctuaries of patriotic conformity and decorum.”
Go to LSU’s Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night or venture into the SuperDome for a Sunday afternoon Saints game. Many fans seem oblivious to the anthem as they wander towards their seats or walk about looking for bathrooms and concession stands. Tailgaters, almost without exception, carry on with their cooking and drinking as the music drifts outside the stadium gates. No time or interest in pausing for the anthem.
Actually, there is a federal act that requires allegiance to the American Flag. In United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, the law states that non-military persons “should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with the right hand and holding to the left shoulder, hand being over the heart.”
I’m sure lawsuits would come raining down from the ACLU if such a law were enforced. I oppose players taking a knee, but those that do are at least staying quite and focusing on the anthem. Not like many fans who seem to be oblivious to a two-minute pause in honor of those who defend the freedoms that allows these same fans to attend a sporting event. As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men: “We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.”
Sure, there are many problems involving fairness throughout our nation. I have written a book about discrimination in the federal judicial system called Justice Denied. But there are times when our country should speak as one voice, and that time to me is during the playing of our national anthem.
The American Flag is rarely flown anymore, outside of public buildings and some car dealerships. When I grew up, many homes throughout our neighborhood proudly hung the Flag. I still fly the nation’s flag in front of both my house and my office, 365 days a year.
But that’s just me. I guess, to many of us old guys, patriotism is something that too many Americans acknowledge in passing. Take for granted. No big deal. Now let’s get on with the game.
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.