Perhaps you’ve read or heard the news out of Denver this week: a woman was invited to sing the National Anthem before Mayor John Hickenlooper gave his annual “State of the City” address.
Only problem is that the singer, Rene Marie, used only the tune of the anthem; she substituted the words of “Lift Every Voice” for those of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” She didn’t ask permission to sing different words; she advised no one with the city ahead of time. In fact, City Council President Michael Hancock introduced her to perform the national anthem, and that’s what he and other city leaders expected.
I think there’s something wrong here. Rene Marie wasn’t invited to perform a musical selection of her choice; she wasn’t asked to simply provide some entertainment. She wasn’t given a list of five or so selections and told to pick her own from among the list. She was invited to sing the National Anthem at this government function.
The woman later said she is an artist and that as an artist, she has artistic rights to express herself.
Indeed, she may be an artist. No doubt she has talent. It takes talent to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” one of the hardest vocal selections outside of opera, it seems. And then to substitute words to a difficult tune! Yes, that takes talent.
But, I think she was wrong to sing anything other than the National Anthem itself. That’s what she was asked to sing. If she wasn’t comfortable performing this particular selection, she should have declined the invitation.
There’s a time and place for everything, and this wasn’t the time or the place for Rene Marie to change the lyrics to the National Anthem.