Thursday Book Feature–The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.I can’t think of a better way to commemorate Independence Day than to re-blog a book review I posted here last year. Not only do I discuss a  book about the creation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but I also sing the song. Enjoy, and have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

via Thursday Book Feature–The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom

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My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature–The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom

The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom
by Deborah Kent
Copyright 1995.

This is a chronicle, for young readers, of how our national anthem was written. The author starts by explaining how an elderly doctor in Maryland was arrested for mistreating British soldiers when he refused them wine and ordered townspeople to arrest them. She then describes how Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who wrote poetry on the side, came to represent the old doctor and ended up on a small boat tethered to one of the British ships during the battle at Fort McHenry near Baltimore. She talks about how Key was inspired to write the poem, as he observed bombs bursting in mid-air and marveled that the flag remained at full mast until dawn when the British retreated. She then explains how the poem became a song and how the song eventually became our national anthem. The book includes the lyrics with all four verses, a glossary, a timeline, and other information.

Since Deborah Kent was a recent guest speaker at a meeting of Behind our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong, I thought it a good idea to read one of her books, which are written primarily for children. This book’s language is such that it can be appreciated by adults. Being a poet and a musician who has performed the national anthem, I was intrigued by how Francis Scott Key jotted the poem on a piece of scratch paper while watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Although this song can be difficult to sing because of its wide vocal range, I can see now how fitting it is as our national anthem. This book not only teaches young people about that part of our history but can open their eyes to how a poet is inspired.

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Now here’s a little treat. Click this link to hear me sing our national anthem.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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I’m a Star

I wanted to be a star ever since I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” while accompanying myself on piano in the Kiwanis Club Stars of Tomorrow contest in Sheridan, Wyoming, back in the 70’s. I was twelve years old at the time. A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy found an old paint can he used as a drum and a wood chip I pretended was a microphone. To hear me read a poem I wrote about that experience, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/I%27m%20a%20star.mp3 .

Soon after that, Andy got a drum set. Our band moved from the front porch to the dining room with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. As a sophomore in high school, I again entered the Stars of Tomorrow contest. They had a silly rule that a younger person couldn’t accompany an older person so Andy couldn’t play the drums while I sang “You Light Up My Life,” accompanying myself on the piano. However, I could accompany Andy on piano while he played drums. In this fashion, we performed “You Don’t’ Have to be a Star to Be in My Show.” To hear the original sung by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nb9jJg_wIU . Andy didn’t win, but I took second place with my rendition of “You Light Up my Life.” Here’s what it sounded like. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/you%20light%20up%20my%20life.mp3

After graduating from high school, I decided not to move to Nashville, New York, or L.A. and try to make it big. I went to college where I majored in music and eventually got into music therapy. For fifteen years, I worked in a nursing home, singing old standards like this one. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3 After fifteen years, I decided to become a writer when I married my late husband Bill.

Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I became a caregiver but found time to publish two books and write poems and stories and submit them to publications. Now that Bill is gone, I have more time for that and have published a third book and am working on a fourth. I still sing but not as often.

Recently though, I became a bit of a celebrity in my home town. I entered a talent competition connected with our monthly third Thursday festival that runs during the summer months downtown. To my surprise, I won and was asked to sing the national anthem at a polo match. Andy and his wife Christina, who were visiting from Florida, managed to catch most of my performance on video. The sound you’ll hear in the background is the wind, not bombs bursting in air as you might imagine. It may take a little longer for this one to come up when you click on it. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/national%20anthem%20polo%207-26-2015.MOV

If you’re within the sound of my voice, I’ll be performing on the main stage at the next third Thursday festival in downtown Sheridan on August 20th. It’s located in front of the old Woolworth building on the corner of Main and Grinnell. My program will run from five to five thirty p.m. I’ll accompany myself on guitar instead of piano.

I’m not a super star like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boon, but that’s okay. I love to perform when I get a chance, and audiences love me. That’s what matters.

It’s the same with my writing. I’ve published three books with a fourth on the way, but I’m not a best-selling author. That doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, and my readers enjoy my work. As the song goes, “You don’t have to be a star.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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