“The Star-Spangled Banner” is notoriously difficult for singers to really nail down. Francis Scott Key’s American war hymn is, at least in the stanzas not sung before major sporting events, a lyrical tribute to conquest and havoc. It’s also maybe racist, and definitely a rip-off of an old British song, all of which makes it something of an awkward fit for chest-thumping nationalism in a country that—at its idealistic and not often realized best—makes loud noises about equality and freedom and independence.
These are several reasons why the great Freddie Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ trumpeter, should be the only human being allowed to play the national anthem. Jones’ rendition, played before home games at Jerry World, should, in fact, be made the preferred and official version of this country’s anthem. Wordless and beautifully simple, the song feels stripped of its historical ugliness, and full of promise. There’s no labored showboating. It’s over pretty quick, and then we can all sit back down, or stand back up, depending on how you feel about this sort of thing in the first place.
Happy Fourth of July.