DEFENCE OF FORT M'HENRY
When imaginating Steinbeck Country, I early on felt that each performance of my musi-drama ought begin with the national anthem: or at least with a song with the same first verse. Knowing well the story of that night in 1814 when Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry as a British detainee, and knowing all the verses (there are four) to the poem the event inspired, I reinvented the whole thing, for our purposes, into something a little more literary, and a lot more "country".
I sure wish you could hear this stuff too, but you can't. Yet. Still, it doesn't look so bad "on paper", and I love telling people, "Here's one I wrote with Francis Scott Key." I have "ghost written" several songs in collaboration with historical figures now long deceased, with nary a word of complaint from any of them.
In deference to Key's original title for his poem, I call my version of The Star Spangled Banner, instead, Defence Of Fort M'Henry.
DEFENCE OF FORT M'HENRY
Francis Scott Key & Larry Hosford
Oh! Say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! Say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
Spoken: This is the tale of two American men,
Caught up in a war and held captive my friend,
Circa 1814, way back when, on a British-rigged man-o-war.
The ship was a part of a nefarious fleet,
Come here to bombard, to beset and to beat down
Old Fort M'Henry up the Chesapeake, the key to this nation's doors.
All night by the light of the war flew the flag,
And proudly they hailed that old battered rag,
High over M'Henry til just at the dark ere dawn, when the guns fell still,
Said one to the other, "Oh say, can you see?
How fares the flag and our liberty?
Are we still Yankees? Are we still free?"
Then the sun came up on the hill.
On the shore, dimly seen through the mist of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh! Long may it wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
For a bit more on FSK, Fort McHenry, and the national anthem, click here.