A Spanish Version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' A Spanish-language version of the U.S. National Anthem is getting huge airplay on Spanish-language radio stations across the nation ahead of pro-immigration rallies slated for Monday, May 1. But the great-great grandson of the original songwriter, Francis Scott Key, is not pleased with the interpretation of the song.

A Spanish Version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'

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On Monday, massive pro-immigration marches are expected across the country and this song may be the soundtrack.

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)


Nuestro Himno is a Spanish language interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner. The phrase means our anthem in English, our referring to the millions of Latinos in the U.S., legally or not. About 20 Latin recording artists, including big names like Gloria Trevi and Carlos Ponce, collaborated on the recording.

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)

BRAND: Adam Kidron is the CEO of Urban Box Office, the record label that produced the song. He sees historical parallels, such as when the Vatican allowed Mass to be read in languages other than Latin.

Mr. ADAM KIDRON (CEO, Urban Box Office): The idea being that, you know, that the people should understand what it is that they are listening to. So the artistic purpose interpreting the national anthem was to just make it more relevant to more people.

CHADWICK: Adam Kidron wants Spanish language radio stations here in this country to play Nuestro Himno simultaneously at 7:00 tonight in solidarity with the fight for immigration rights. Talk about the song is getting airtime on conservative talk radio also, and one person who doesn't like it, George Key, from Southern California.

Mr. GEORGE KEY (Great-Great Grandson of Francis Scott Key): I think it's a terrible thing and it's awful. My thoughts are they should go someplace else and sing it.

BRAND: George Key is the great-great grandson of yes, you guessed it, Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote the original poem that eventually became the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner. George Key is half-Panamanian, but he cannot believe anyone singing the national anthem in Spanish could possibly understand the true meaning behind the song.

Mr. KEY: There was a man standing out on a ship watching the City of Baltimore being bombarded by the British at the time. Had we lost that part of the war, we would be British subjects today. It was the second Revolutionary War. And so for somebody to come in here now who doesn't understand the concept of why that was written and the hardships that were endured by these people, they just don't understand what they're doing.

CHADWICK: A recent Harris survey did show that two out of three Americans don't know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, and as for the music...

(Soundbite of the Star-Spangled Banner)

BRAND: It was taken from a bawdy English song often heard in taverns. So what's all the fuss about? This isn't the first time someone has tried to make a political or cultural statement with the national anthem.

(Soundbite of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner)

CHADWICK: Jimi Hendrix and his Stratocaster blew away Woodstock with his interpretation of the anthem.

(Soundbite of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner)

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)

BRAND: And that's not the final word. Earlier today, President Bush weighed in at a news conference at the White House.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The national anthem ought to be sung in English and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.

CHADWICK: You'll likely be hearing the Spanish version though throughout the weekend and on Monday when many, many Latinos are expected to take off from work and school in support of immigration reform.

BRAND: And you can hear the entire song at our web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)

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