After I posted that last piece on “Lift Every — or is it Ev’ry? — Voice and Sing,” a friend sent me a video of jazz singer Rene Marie’s rendition. You’ll notice that the person who introduces her — he calls her Rene “Martin” instead of “Marie ” — announces that she is going to sing “our” national anthem.
When I first watched the video, I was unaware of the context, so when he said “our” I didn’t know which “we” he meant.
Turns out that the occasion was the State of the City address in Denver in 2008 and the audience was expecting a straight up “Star Spangled Banner.”
Apparently, Marie’s rendition caused quite a stir, to put it mildly. WARNING: If you venture into the comment thread that accompanies the video, you might need an antacid.
One might argue that Marie should have at least given city officials a heads up. In her defense, she says no one would have complained had her offering included another traditionally patriotic song such as “America the Beautiful.”
I think it’s a brilliant mash-up. What do you think?
I’ve also included a rendition by Talisman, a Stanford University a capella group. Enjoy this one too.
On July 16, 1938, my father devoted most of his column to James Weldon Johnson, a true Renaissance man who died in a car accident in Maine on June 26 of that year.
“Mr. Johnson’s demise marks the end of a brilliant and varied career. During his lifetime he had wrought in the capacity of lawyer, author, educator and diplomat,” my father wrote. “As a diplomat he represented the United States in Venezuela and at Nicaragua. As author he gave us several interesting books on the life of the Negro. As educator he was instructor on creative literature at Fisk University and New York University. As a composer, he gave us amongst other numbers, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ otherwise known as the ‘Negro National Anthem.‘
After posting the lyrics, Ebenezer wrote: “The late Mr. Johnson’s contributions to the Negro in the form of an anthem clearly reveal the depth to which his thoughtful soul travelled. In it he bade us rejoice, he bade us hope, he bade us pray and, none the least, march on!”
“Set to music by his brother Rosamond Johnson, its melody lingers in your ears. The only ‘blue note’ is that it is not heard more often from the lips of persons for whom the author wrote it,” he added.
By the way, Cameron McWhirter, has an excellent column on James Weldon Johnson on The Root.