O! say can you hear that?
That's the sound of national anthem singers rechecking their lyric sheets, putting their ramparts in the right place and being sure to enunciate "o'er" instead of "over" in response to an Indiana bill that would fine performers $25 for not meeting state-defined performance standards.
The bill, introduced by Indiana senator Vaneta Becker, would apply only to singers at public school and university-sponsored events, and would be dictated by guidelines instituted and enforced by the State Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education.
Performers would be required to sign a performance contract agreeing to the department's specifications, and schools would be required to keep recordings of all renditions for two years for their review if complaints are filed.
Seriously -- two years.
Becker drafted the bill in response to a constituent's complaint about a non-traditional performance of the anthem at a local school, but stressed the bill is targeted at performers who take deliberate liberties with the song's lyrics or musical interpretation, explaining to The Indianapolis Star that it should be sung "the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country."
Indiana would not be the first bright star to bring this perilous fight to anthem signers. Massachusetts can fine citizens for using the song as dance music, an exit march or as part of a musical medley, where Michigan prohibits performing the anthem "with embellishment."
There is even a federal law (36 U.S.C. § 301) mandating that anyone in the presence of an anthem performance must "face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart."
If the bill passes, all indications are that someone like Steven Tyler would have owed $25 to the state after changing the lyrics to "the home of the Indianapolis 500" in his rendition, yet Christina Aguilera would have been in the clear for flubbing her Super Bowl performance last year.
Roseanne Barr's Padres anthem debacle in 1990 might have actually gone over without retribution given her lyrical accuracy, though her infamous crotch grab would (we hope) warrant a fine if for no other reason than it drew our attention to Roseanne Barr's crotch -- with our hands over our hearts, no less.
Follow Ryan Stayton on Twitter @rynoisneato.
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