Well, it does have a wide range, and it does get slaughtered on a regular basis. But the people who do the most harm are not the people who can’t sing. No, it’s the “ahtistes” who, after vocal stylings and noodlings that would be excessive in a torch song, go up to the tonic at “Free….EEEEE!” It’s not about you, assholes, it’s about the country. So just sing the thing.
This summer with Community Band, I gave them the lecture: “It has words! Play the words! You wouldn’t sing “Oh-ho say can you see…” I also sing along while conducting…because I can.
My favorite version of SSB is the version from the Dodworth Saxhorn Journal, recorded on some old Nonesuch LP. It’s a lot closer to Smith’s glee, with a lilt to the 3/4, and big cadenzas at “wave”. It’s pre-Civil War, when we took the country a little less seriously than we do now. #2 is probably Stravinsky (so much for “just sing the thing”), which was banned in Boston.