Was Igor Stravinsky Arrested for Adding a Chord to the National Anthem?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Igor Stravinsky was arrested for adding a chord to the U.S. National Anthem.

Here’s a great picture that goes along with a great story.

In 1940, Igor Stravinsky was arrested by the Boston Police for adding a new chord to an arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner, which was in violation of a Federal Law that says that you can mess with the harmonization of the National Anthem of the United States.

It’s a great story and the visual is awesome.

However, it’s totally bogus.

Stravinsky DID have a problem with his re-arrangement of the National Anthem, but it was not in 1940, it was in 1944, and all the police did was tell him he had to remove the arrangement from his musical programme for the day, which he did.

The “mug shot” from 1940 is actually a photo taken for a visa application, during the time early in his stay in the United States where he was still living in the Northeast.

Man, this is an example where the truth just isn’t NEARLY as good as the lie!!

The legend is…


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4 Responses to “Was Igor Stravinsky Arrested for Adding a Chord to the National Anthem?”

  1. Shouldn’t that be cannot mess with the harmonization?

  2. […] to come out of this later period included his arrangements of popular American tunes. First, the National Anthem for the Boston Symphony, which he was rumored to be arrest for "tampering with" in 1944. […]

  3. Stephen Mikesell on July 2nd, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Those police must have been well versed in music! I could not hear any difference when they played it on WPR today. (Or did someone tip them off with a complaint?)

  4. Brian Cronin on July 5th, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Yeah, I imagine that they were told ahead of time.

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