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Oh Say, Can You See? A Musical Salute

Some things are so familiar, so fixed in our heads, that we stop noticing them. Buckle-your-seat-belt instructions in an airplane, for example. You don't have to listen. You know the drill.

Here's another: "The Star-Spangled Banner." You vaguely hear the words, but all you're really doing is waiting to get to the "Play ball!" finish. Bombs burst in the air, rockets glare red, but nobody's feeling it. The words have gone empty.

That's why I find this music video so surprising. It's from Jon Batiste (of the wonderfully musical Louisiana Batiste family). It's his version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and it's like America talking — different voices, lots of accents, so many flavors. It's the anthem we all know, but nothing's the same. He starts in what sounds like a cocktail bar, then he goes bluesy, then classy, then orchestral, then triumphal, then grand opera, and just when you're feeling like getting out of your seat to salute the flag, whoosh, he stops; produces a music box version, then a movie score, then a silent film score, then a rag. And the finish? Well it's everybody's music plopped into the pot and turned into a happy e pluribus unumstew. Whoever you are, and whatever you like, I think you'll find yourself in here somewhere:

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Robert Krulwich works on radio, podcasts, video, the blogosphere. He has been called "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide.
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