Isaac Asimov sings "The Star-Spangled Banner"!
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Published on Jul 1, 2012
In March, 1991, Isaac Asimov published an essay in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction entitled "All Four Stanzas." In it, he gave the background of Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner" (as it has come to be called), and perhaps just as remarkably, speaks of his own love of the anthem, and his habit of singing it with all four stanzas, not just the first one which is generally heard.
This essay has never been collected into any of Dr. Asimov's books (he died before Doubleday could bring out a final collection of his essays, and the people in charge there now don't seem to be interested in much beyond his eternally-best-selling science fiction). It HAS, however, come to have a life of its own ... on the internet.
Unfortunately, the version which shows up on the internet tends to turn up at, shall we say, rather conservative sites. Moreover, it has been rewritten by unknown hands. As one blogger has described this: "Yet at the same time that I found myself deeply moved by Asimov's words, I also found myself deeply offended at one of the most dishonest examples of Dowdification I have ever seen. The version that is quoted online everywhere is a brutal hack job -- selectively cutting Asimov's 4166 words down to 1321 words (nearly three fourths of the piece), yet there is no mention that the piece was severely edited. Edited hell!; it was deliberately, ideologically butchered. It is no exaggeration to call it political Bowdlerization."
I refer anyone interested to that blog post, and the true and original form of Asimov's text, here:
As for this video: Maybe a dozen years ago, a lawyer friend handed me a mysterious cassette tape, and said, "Here, I thought you might like to have this." The only identification on the tape was the words "Asimov Anthem for [my friend's name]." Out of curiosity, I stuck it in my car stereo (the only cassette player I had at the time), and sure enough, it was a recording of Isaac Asimov singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." All four stanzas!
I have no idea of the origin of this tape. My friend cannot now even remember who it was who had given it to him. But the voice is unmistakably that of Isaac Asimov, and from his opening remarks it's evident that it was recorded sometime in 1991, the year before his death. That's all I know.
And now, I share it with the world.
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