John Stafford Smith was born in 1750 and christened in Gloucester Cathedral. After his education at the Cathedral School he was a choir boy at the Chapel Royal London. He also studied under Dr. Boyce. He gained a reputation as a fine organist and composer and gained membership of the select Anachreonic Society. Member have included J.S.Bach, Henry Purcell and James Boswell.
In 1780 he composed the music to the societies constitutional song. It was entitled ” To Anachreon in Heaven “. It was inspired by a 6th century Greek poet and was about the pleasures of wine and love.
He played as organist at the Three Choirs Festival in 1790 at Gloucester. In 1836 he died at the age of 85.
His song became popular in England and America. During the war of 1812, the British fleet attacked Fort Mchenry which protected Baltimore. Frances Scott Key was aboard a British war ship trying to get the release of an American prisoner. He was held so that he could not pass on any warning about the attack. When the sun rose next morning he notice the Stars and Stripes was still flying. He then penned the following verse to the tune of John Stafford Smith.
Oh! say, can you see,by the dawns early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last Gleamings
Whose broad Stripes and bright Stars,thro’ the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming
and the rockets red glare,the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does the star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This was printed on hand bills the next day and distributed through Baltimore. Interestingly, although the American navy and army had recognised the Star Spangled Banner as the National Anthem of the united states for some time, it was not until 1931 that it was officially recognised by congress. You will see the stars and stripes flying from Gloucester Cathedral to this day because of this connection.