The best-known songs in the world are violent, sexist, and religious — so why do we celebrate national anthems when we should be rewriting them?
This fascinating popular history of national anthems begins in a London theatre in 1745 when the modern idea of anthems was born. They started out as triumphant expressions of national superiority by glorifying violence, claiming the support of God, and mostly ignoring women.
The author has experienced the violent side of anthems firsthand: as a schoolboy in Scotland, he was caned for refusing to sing “God Save the Queen.” He says it’s time to dump lyrics about cutting throats, watering fields with blood, building walls with the bodies of enemies, and celebrating the sound of machine guns.
Changing Our Tunes looks at the origins of many of the world’s anthems, from the movie theme song that became China’s national song to the English tune used for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
This wide-ranging and deeply-researched narrative combines politics, personalities, humour, and vivid storytelling to argue for better national songs.