Rene Marie's "Black National Anthem" at Denver Event

Rene Marie sparked a lot of controversy by singing the "Black National Anthem" during Denver's State of the City address Tuesday. Marie was asked to sing the national anthem before the Denver event. However, instead of the "Star-Spangled Banner, ", the crowd heard "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, " also referred to as the "Black National Anthem."

Marie sang the lyrics to the tune of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Mayor John Hickenlooper said, at first, he was offended. "We were as surprised as anyone and she didn't tell anyone, she made this decision with her husband, her musical mentor and decided just to do an artistic expression and she kind of wove the two songs together, " he said.

Marie says she meant no disrespect and wasn't trying to make a political statement. "I decided to sing my version. What was going on in my head was, I wanted to express how I feel about living in the United States as a black woman." She went on to say she "wouldn't change a thing" about the performance.

Hickenlooper did say that Marie apologized for making the switch.

"Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, " often called "The Negro National Hymn" or "The Black National Anthem, " was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1900.

It was first performed in public in Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.

Rene Marie is a jazz singer who has recorded five albums since 2000, four of which were on the MaxJazz label. She has received much acclaim for her voice and has also performed at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C.

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