It’s not unusual, today, for a song from Broadway or other popular music to be given new lyrics, usually for the purpose of a send-up or satire. So it’s noteworthy that our national anthem — yes, “The Star-Spangled Banner” — actually was an application of more serious lyrics to a tune associated with a drinking song.
Today at noon, in the “Creating the United States” exhibition on the second floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., Raymond White of the Library’s Music Division will give a gallery talk about how “The Star-Spangled Banner” (and a slew of other patriotic songs of the late 1700s and early 1800s) emerged from the official song of a London gentleman’s club named after Anacreon, a Greek poet who really appreciated wine and women.
The Library of Congress has a songbook, dating to 1804, containing the lyrics to the song that lent its tune to our national anthem, sometimes referred to by its first line: “To Anacreon in Heaven. “