US National Anthem

The lyrics or words of the US national anthem are from the poem Defence of Fort M'Henry, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. Key was inspired by the huge "Star-Spangled Banner" flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 (1812-15) against the British. The poem was later set to a popular British tune composed for a London gentlemen's club. As a song, renamed The Star-Spangled Banner, it became a well-known US patriotic song and was made the official US national anthem in 1931. Although the national anthem consists of four verses, on almost every occasion only the first verse is sung.

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Written by Francis Scott Key, 1814

Audio recordings of US National Anthem

Recordings courtesy



Band and chorus

Video: Jimi Hendrix plays Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock 1969

This controversial rendition of the US National Anthem is a classic in the world of rock music.