I didn’t realize our national anthem began as a drinking song, but I’m not surprised. Lots of hymns began their lives as drinking songs too.
Here’s a bit of what’s on the YouTube page, but click the video to go and read more:
“The Anacreontic Song,” or “To Anacreon in Heaven” with words by Ralph Tomlinson and music by John Stafford Smith is the source for the tune Francis Scott Key had in mind when he composed the lyric “In Defence of Fort McHenry” to celebrate the victory of American troops and the people of Baltimore against the British Fleet on 14 September 1814.
The precise date this club anthem of London’s Anacreontic Society was written is unknown, but it was likely written in 1775/76. This performance is realized from first 1779 imprint, published by Longman and Broderip [London], a copy of which is held by the University of Michigan’s Clements Library.
Lyrics by Ralph Tomlinson
To Anacreon, in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron would be;
When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian —
Voice, fiddle and flute, no longer be mute.
I’ll lend ye my name, and inspire you to boot,
And, besides, I’ll instruct you, like me, to entwine,
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.
— CHORUS –