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O Say Can You...Answer These Trivia Questions?

On March 3, 1931, our great nation finally got its theme song. President Herbert Hoover signed a bill naming "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem of the United States of America. Test your knowledge of our patriotic ode to all that makes America great with these trivia questions.

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Who Wrote the Song? # The words to America's national anthem were inspired by the sight of the American flag flying high over the ramparts of Baltimore's Fort McHenry the morning after a heavy British bombardment in 1812. Though the tune would not become our national anthem until March 3, 1931, the original poem the song is based on had been making its rounds since it was originally written in 1814. Originally titled "The Defense of Fort McHenry," "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the underdog victory by American forces at Fort McHenry. Shortly after its publication, the poem was put to the tune of a popular British drinking song called "Anacreon in Heaven."  In 1917, then-President Woodrow Wilson commissioned an official rendition of the song which later premiered at Carnegie Hall and was then ordered to be played at appropriate military occasions. This set the stage for the bill that would make the song our anthem on March 3, 1931.

What Newspaper Cartoon Became the Launch Pad for the Bill? # Cover of the sheet music for the Francis Scott Key poem that became the Star Spangled Banner. Image source: WikiCommons In 1929, Robert Ripley published a cartoon in his popular "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" column that poked some fun at the lack of a national anthem in the U.S. The cartoon caused a bit of outrage and left Ripley with a slew of nasty letters from offended citizens. Ripley took to the page again and urged those who were angry to direct that frustration toward their local congressmen rather than a lowly cartoonist. Apparently, they did, because shortly after that Rep. John Linthicum of Maryland introduced a bill to the House of Representatives to make "The Star-Spangled Banner" our national anthem.

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Why is the Song Known to Be Difficult to Sing? With a range of just over an octave and a half, ¨The Star-Spangled Banner¨ has given even professional singers a difficult time through the years. Plenty of artists have forgotten the lyrics, just ask Christina Aguilera at the 2011 Super Bowl or Michael Bolton with the lyrics written on his hands at a 2003 Yankees game.  In an interview with NBC6 in Miami, Kathleen Wilson, a music professor at Florida International University, said the anthem is notoriously hard to sing ¨because it is outside the range of what most average, non-professional singers can do.¨ But the very end of the song, says Wilson, is by far its most challenging passage, noting that it is at this point ¨where people derail.¨ 

At What Sporting Event Was the Song First Sung? Although there is anecdotal evidence that ¨The Star-Spangled Banner¨ may have been performed at some sporting events years earlier, the first documented performance of the song came during the seventh-inning stretch of the first game of the World Series in September 1918. That year, the baseball championship pitted the Boston Red Sox against the Chicago Cubs. However, because the Cubs' home field, then called Weeghman Park, was deemed too small, the Chicago games of the series were played at Comiskey Park, home field for the Chicago White Sox. The song was again performed at Boston's Fenway Park before the first pitch was thrown in the fourth game of the series.