Singers defend national anthem after radio host calls it an ‘abomination’

Oh say can you sing? Bill Press doesn’t seem to think so.

The talk show host started a major controversy on his radio show this week when he hit the airwaves and announced to listeners that the American national anthem, a.k.a. “The Star- Spangled Banner,” is “stupid” and “un-singable.”

“It’s an abomination… First of all, it ranges two octaves; most people can only do, kind of, one octave,” said Press. “It’s more than a pet peeve. It is a major crusade of mine. A major cause of mine and that is, to get rid of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”

While Press seems to think the song is an “embarrassment” to our country, singers including an “American Idol” finalist and an Operatic tenor, who also happens to be a former police officer who sang at Ground Zero, disagree.

“The ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ is most definitely singable. It’s a beautiful song. It talks about the strife our country went through to gain its independence...It’s a statement of pride. To say it’s an ‘abomination’ is shocking to us who are more patriotic,” said former NYPD officer Daniel Rodriguez, otherwise known as the “Singing Policeman," who captured the hearts of America with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the first Yankees baseball game post 9/11.

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“I was at Ground Zero when the [Twin Towers] came down. At that Yankee game, I felt the pride of our country," Rodriguez told "I couldn’t even hear myself because people were screaming with tears when I started singing 'And the rockets’ red glare.' It was triumphant.”

However, unlike Rodriguez, who received an offer to be personally trained by Placido Domingo after his chilling performance, some singers have indeed struggled with the song. In 2011, Christina Aguilera notoriously botched the lyrics at the Super Bowl XLV. Other stars to skip a note or two include Steven Tyler, Jesse McCartney, and Michael Bolton (who used notes scribbled on his hand to guide him through his mediocre performance).

But the trouble some singers have singing the national anthem isn’t reflective of the song itself, Rodriguez says. It’s more about the singer.

“It’s not that of a big a deal. It should be in the range of any singer," he said.

As for the song’s lyrics, which Press called “stupid,” they originated from an1814 Francis Scott Key poem that was written during the Battle of Fort McHenry. Once set to music, the patriotic poem became widely popular, so popular that President Woodrow Wilson made it our national anthem in 1916. Since then, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become a part of Americana, being sung at every major sporting event, a kind of badge for those who get to sing it.

“I remember the first time I sang it as a kid for the Colorado Rockies baseball game," said “American Idol” finalist Ace Young. "It was amazing to hear 60,000 people sing it with me. I had chills.”

“We have amazing troops fighting hard so that we are truly a free nation, and I am proud and honored to sing it every time I am asked,” Young said.

READ: How Ace Young proposed to Diana DeGarmo.

Indeed Whitney Houston’s performance at the Super Bowl XXV  in 1991 was a defining moment in her career. Her iconic rendition was released as a single and went on to be regarded as one of her finest artistic achievements.

For Rodriguez, who will be starring in the Chelsea Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly this weekend, the national anthem is an attainable song, especially if you know your limits and don’t try to fluff it up.

"Singers usually pick a key that’s a little too high. It should be started low," he said.

And whether sung off-key or not, Rodriguez thinks the song itself is deeply rooted with meaning, and should be sung by all those who believe in this country.

“The song itself is powerful," he said. "Maybe [Bill Press] never read more than the first paragraph of the poem?”