In 1814 following the burning of the Capitol at Washington, the British moved on the harbor at Baltimore. A young lawyer named Francis Scott Key, representing President Madison, boarded a British warship to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. While aboard, Key overheard the British attack plan. So he had to remain on that ship until the battle was concluded.
Key was witness to the bombardment of the American fortifications at Ft. McHenry which guarded the harbor entrance. The fort’s flag was waving as darkness ensured. The bombardment lasted all night. At dawn Key looked toward the fort and saw that the American’s flag was still there. He was so moved with patriotism that he wrote a poem on the spot called “Defense of Fort McHenry.” Almost everyone knows that Francis Scott
Key poem became the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”
However very few people are aware that an Englishman wrote the music. Key’s brother-in-law saw that the poem’s words fit perfectly with the tune “The Anacreontic Song” which was the official song of London’s Anacreontic Society, a gentleman’s club of amateur musicians. It was written by Englishman John Stafford Smith. He of course did not set out to write an anthem for the United States, a nation with which his native country would fight two wars in his lifetime. And he had no way of knowing it would become, in order, a religious hymn, a popular drinking song in the pubs of London and America, and finally the anthem of the United States of America.
Key could not know that the words of his patriotic poem would be sung to the tune of an English drinking song and become the nation’s anthem 117 years after he wrote it.
Unfortunately, neither Francis Scott Key nor John Stafford Smith were around to collect royalties. As far as the song being too hard to sing, well maybe a couple of mugs of beer might help.