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Star-Spangled Music

The shot heard around the world…


by Dendy Jarrett




Today is the 4th of July, also known as Independence Day in the USA. And if you celebrate this holiday, you're probably preparing barbecue, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, deviled eggs, and a cold one or two. But few people are aware of the curious story about how music worked its way into influencing this uniquely American holiday—just ask the five million people Jimi Hendrix needed before he could play his immortal rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."


Independence day didn’t become a federally recognized holiday until 1941, but the traditions of the celebration go back to the American Revolution (1775-83). Although many think of the National Anthem as being as old as the country itself, it wasn’t recognized as such until 1931. In fact, it took the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), along with a petition of five million signatures, to push for that recognition—a full eight decades after the song was penned in 1814.


And in the beginning Francis Scott Key's song wasn't a song, but a poem. Yet the lyrics called for music, and within a short time the words were adapted to music and became the National Anthem we know today.


Recently, I was visiting with Harmony Central associate and all-around good guy Brian Hardgroove (Public Enemy, Bootsy Collins, ART, etc.). We were discussing the influence music has had throughout history in this country and how much impact American music has had on the rest of the world. Brian believes that "American music is the most desired art form on the planet,” and he makes a strong case for that belief. Unfortunately, he also pointed out that while American music is the foundation of who we are, it's also becoming a dwindling part of the conversation. And we need to keep that conversation alive.


He also stated that “music is the way we communicate that transcends ethnicity, political differences, race, and galvanizes the American culture...American music is just that damn good!”


No other place on the planet has such a musical diversity, nor is there any other place where music has influenced change like it has in the United States.

Think about how Bob Dylan’s music influenced the political climate of the late 60s or how many "British Invasion" bands used the template of the blues when they came to these shores. Consider how music has served charities, from “We are the World” to “Farm Aid.” And I'm proud to be part of a company whose "Music Rising" initiative brought instruments back to the musicians of New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.


American Music is so "star spangled," not because of the National Anthem, but because of the American musical melting pot that combined influences from West Africa, Cuba, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, and many other countries—creating blues, jazz, creole, rock, hip hop, bluegrass, cajun, gospel, rap, techno, and so much more. What could be more American than Jimi Hendrix, a black ex-military left-handed guitarist from the Northwest USA, playing the Star-Spangled Banner accompanied by two white British musicians at a festival attended by 400,000 people of all creeds, religions, races, and beliefs?


So for those of you enjoying a day with your family and reaching for your music or picking up a guitar to sing a tune with your friends while watching fireworks choreographed to…you guessed it…music, think about all of the great influences music has. It can heal, motivate, evoke emotion, communicate change, communicate peace, and transcend language like nothing else.


And as far as American Music goes…that's the real shot heard around the world.



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Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.



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