Audio

Seriously, as my main man Paul Waldman said, only Marvin Gaye could pull off the Star Spangled Banner.

Below, you’ll find Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech. I was in fourth grade, trying to learn English, when I memorized this oration. I remember it like it was yesterday. Henry’s one of those Original Dads that’s kind of remembered in an “oh, by the way” sense.

That’s a bit unfair — he was stoutly opposed to the adoption of the Constitution, and, indeed, helped write The Anti-Federalist Papers, which argued against the Constitution. He was also, as the speech below indicates, a fiery orator. No less a character than Thomas Jefferson said,

“Although it was difficult, when [Henry] had spoken, to tell what he had said, yet, while speaking, it always seemed directly to the point. When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself, when he ceased, ‘What the devil has he said?’ and could never answer the inquiry.”

Above, if you click on play, you’ll hear Marvin Gaye singing our national anthem. As Paul said, and tons of singers have found out to their detriment, The Star Spangled Banner is a musical travesty: you have to have a phenomenal range to carry it off successfully (it’s an octave-and-a-half in range). Moreover, it’s common for singers to forget some, or, from time to time, most of the words.

Gaye performed this version at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. It’s a strikingly original rendition — it actually sounds smooth, and it never, ever fails to send chills up and down my arms.

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