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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Where art and interpretation meet patriotism and tradition: another anthem dust-up

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Jimi Hendrix.

Marvin Gaye.


And now, The Fray, which is getting ripped for it's rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" before Monday night's NCAA championship pitting Kansas against Kentucky.



Tee it up.  Seems everyone else did via social media and blogs.

We play a version of the anthem every day just before the 5:30 a.m. news.   Nothing I've done during my time on "Wisconsin's Morning News" generates as much e-mail.   Nothing.   We get suggestions, including a run during which all manner of people implored us to play a version done by a group of young gilrs, each message telling us how "you can hear a pin drop!" as they're singing.   Isn't that the case EVERY TIME the anthem is sung, unless you're at the United Center for a Chicago Blackhawks game?  

The new and unusual prompt the most response, almost all of it negative.   I played The Fray's version Tuesday morning after mentioning the hub-bub it created and practically begged listeners NOT to respond.    We know some of you aren't going to like it, I said in so many words.   We're only playing it because it's actually making news.

My digital "in" box has yet to explode.

The anthem is where art and interpretation meet patriotism and tradition, with predictable results.   Some folks like a new and different take.   Others don't.   It's like public sculpture: some folks dig Milwaukee's lakefront "Sunburst" but to others, it's not a statue unless it's a guy in uniform sitting on a horse.

It's all in the eye--or ear--of the beholder.

Short of blatantly disrespectful versions, I'm okay with most anthems.   Singers who make it "about them" shouldn't be encouraged, and a version that rubs up against the two-minute mark is, well, usually a bit much.   As Lloyd Pettit would say to wife Jane during particularly drawn-out anthems at Milwaukee Admirals games, "Well, dear, I guess those green bananas we bought should be ripe by the time we get home."

In The Fray's case, I laud the creativity but can't overlook the fact that some of the instruments seemed either flat, out of tune or played poorly.   That's inexcusable.   Be different and let your creation stand on it's merits.  Be sloppy and let the chips fall where they may.

The band has had it's moments...




Monday night just wasn't one of 'em.

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