The Music of Early America
The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner has its genesis as an English-American hybrid.
The music as we know it today is English in origin. Ralph Tomlinson, president of the Anacreontic Society, a London social club, wrote a poem in 1770 called "To Anacreon in Heaven." A year later John Stafford Smith, an organist and composer set the poem to music.
Forty-three years later Francis Scott Key, a poet-lawyer, witnessed the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during The Battle of Baltimore. One thousand dedicated Americans stopped the British advance on Baltimore, and on September 13, 1814 when he saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry "by the dawn's early light," Francis Scott Key changed the words of the original tune from England, replacing them with his own. He named it The Star-Spangled Banner.
In 1931 the Congress of the United States enacted legislation that made the song this country's official national anthem.
"My Country 'Tis of Thee"
The music of the song "America" is derived from an old English Air, the original name of which has been lost in antiquity. The tune itself dates back to England, probably during the seventeenth century. It is based on "God Save the King," synonymous with "God Save the Queen." At the beginning of the 19th century it became the British National Anthem.
The words to America were written in Boston by Samuel Francis Smith on July 4, 1832.