July 4, 2018; Washington, D.C. – Anthem: a song that fuels patriotism, unites fans at baseball game, rallies the troops. But what makes an anthem? And what kind of snapshot can it provide into a collective soul? A new year-long NPR Arts and Music series launches today, looking at 50 American anthems, old and new, and through it, American Anthem will curate and deliver a unique dose of interviews and multimedia storytelling.
"During a time of heightened cultural turbulence and conversation, American Anthem will explore historical and modern songs that unite, challenge, and celebrate the American people," says executive producer Ellen Silva. "Through music, interviews, and archival material, each segment will explore both the story behind the song as well as how it was embraced as an anthem, offering audiences a new appreciation of the song's significance as a cultural touchstone."
From "You're A Grand Old Flag" to "Fight The Power," "Sweet Home Alabama" to "Born This Way," songs for American Anthem were selected by members of the NPR staff and an outside panel of artists and academics. The series will challenge the way anthems are identified. It peers beyond obvious patriotic songs and shines a light on specific communities and subcultures, often exploring songs that are transformed by their listeners.
The series will offer a rich, diverse swath of perspectives, not only on the music, but how the songs reflect different components of American identity. Taken together, this collection of 50 culturally, historically, and sonically-distinct songs will offer NPR's signature insight into America's many unique communities.
Elizabeth Blair, senior producer and reporter with NPR's Art Desk introduced the series at the end of May in a Morning Edition interview with host Rachel Martin. Blair invited listeners to contribute their suggestions for the series on npr.org/anthem. Since its initial announcement, NPR has more than 950 submissions from listeners in every state and seven different countries.
See stations and broadcast times for your favorite national news programs from NPR at npr.org/stations. A running playlist of the anthems will be updated weekly on NPR Music's dedicated American Anthem Spotify playlist.
Griffin Rowell and Hugo Rojo, NPR Media Relations