The Worst Songs in the World - Dundurn

The Worst Songs in the World

The Terrible Truth About National Anthems

Available Aug 6th 2024


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?

“Fascinating and thoughtful ... showcases how anthems divide us even as they promise to bring communities together.” — MARK CLAGUE, author of O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner

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.

David Pate 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.

The Worst Songs in the World looks at the origins of many of the world’s anthems, from the movie theme song that became China’s national anthem 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.



David Pate

David Pate was a veteran journalist who has stood to attention for dozens of national anthems and thinks most of them are terrible songs. Born in Scotland, he worked for numerous media outlets, including Ireland’s public radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lived in Nova Scotia.

Book Details

August 2024
5.5x8.5 in
336 pp
August 2024
336 pp
August 2024
336 pp