National anthem in other languages? Heard this before

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President Bush, Congress and anyone else upset over the Spanish translation of the national anthem might be interested to know that the U.S. government gave its blessing to a different version 87 years ago.

That translation of "The Star-Spangled Banner," prepared by the Bureau of Education in 1919, has been available on the Library of Congress Web site for two years without so much as a sniff of disapproval.

Besides Spanish, the library has vintage translations in Polish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Armenian, among others. A little Googling will turn up versions in Samoan and Yiddish, too.

"What's sort of surprising for us here who've lived with 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is that everyone has their shorts in a bunch about it," said Loras Schissel, a musicologist at the Library of Congress. "It's old news."

Until last week, that is, when some Latino pop stars released a Spanish version with somewhat different lyrics ("The time has come to break the chains") called "Nuestro Himno," or "Our Anthem."

It landed in the middle of a heated debate over immigration. The song's producer and singers hoped to fire up the immigrant community. To critics, they might as well have torched a flag on the Capitol steps.

Musically speaking, the reaction was fortissimo. Once Spanish-language radio aired the song, talk radio, blogs and cable, along with members of Congress, reacted with outrage.

In contrast, the 1919 government-sponsored Spanish translation evoked a collective yawn, if anyone was paying attention.

"National airs and anthems were popular music at the time," Schissel said. "You bought them on 78 [rpm] records, and people sang them around the piano."