The 4th of July is a day of summer, barbecues and national hot dog eating competitions in America as the nation celebrates its independence.
But few people know that the tune of the American national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”, a song proudly sung at every Super Bowl, actually comes from England.
The melody to which Francis Scott Key set the lyrics was derived from “To Anacreon in Heaven”, the constitutional song of the Anacreontic Society, a private gentlemen’s club in London.
The song was named after a Greek poet called Anacreon, who gained notoriety for his poems about women and alcohol.
It became a common song sung in taverns in colonial America, but Congress did not name it the official American anthem until 1931.
The melody’s composer was John Stafford Smith, born in Gloucester in March 1750, the son of a cathedral organist.
He then joined the Chapel Royal in London and was a pupil of the composer William Boyce.
Smith became a member of the Anacreontic Society, which first met in taverns on The Strand in central London, growing to around 80 members.
Held every other week, the gathering began with a concert by musicians and ended with dinner, puppet shows and other activities.
The members sang “To Anacreon in Heaven”, the lyrics to which were written by company president Ralph Tomlinson.
The private club dissipated in the 1790s but the song continued to appear in printed music and crossed the Atlantic.
Despite his growing popularity overseas, the composer Smith apparently made no attempt to publicize his own authorship. He died in London in 1836.
By the time of the American Civil War in 1861, Smith’s blend of melody with Key’s lyrics had become one of the country’s best known and most treasured songs, and was adopted by the military shortly after.
The Independent Gt