Mark Clague, O Say Can You Hear



Join us for a special reading and celebration of Mark Clague's newest book, O Say Can You Hear: A Cultural Biography of "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Most Americans learn the tale in elementary school: During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key witnessed the daylong bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry by British navy ships; seeing the Stars and Stripes still flying proudly at first light, he was inspired to pen his famous lyric. What Americans don’t know is the story of how this everyday “broadside ballad,” one of thousands of such topical songs that captured the events and emotions of early American life, rose to become the nation’s one and only anthem and today’s magnet for controversy.

In O Say Can You Hear? Mark Clague brilliantly weaves together the stories of the song and the nation it represents. Examining the origins of both text and music, alternate lyrics and translations, and the song’s use in sports, at times of war, and for political protest, he argues that the anthem’s meaning reflects—and is reflected by—the nation’s quest to become a more perfect union. From victory song to hymn of sacrifice and vehicle for protest, the story of Key’s song is the story of America itself.

Mark Clague is professor of musicology and American culture at the University of Michigan, associate dean at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and codirector of the American Music Institute. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Event date: 
Thursday, July 6, 2023 - 6:00pm
Event address: 
121 California Avenue
Reno, NV 89509
O Say Can You Hear: A Cultural Biography of
ISBN: 9781324064473
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 27th, 2023