As a native South Carolinian, Josh Turner grew up with a personal connection to American history.
“I’ve got two ancestors who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, every great-grandfather of mine fought in World War I and both of my granddaddies fought in World War II,” Turner tells PEOPLE Country. “That all makes me proud to be an American because I had ancestors who fought for our freedom.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Turner has a particular fondness for our national anthem (which on Saturday is celebrating its 200th anniversary) along with the flag that inspired the writing of the song.
“The ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ I feel like, is something that we shouldn’t take lightly,” says Turner in a video by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Turner is one of 19 artists asked by the Smithsonian to perform a version of the anthem to celebrate its bicentennial on the museum’s You Tube Channel.
Turner’s rich rendition is a deliberately reverent one, he says. “I know there’s been artists and celebrities in the past that have turned it into something that it’s not. I’ve always had a respect for this song because an American was inspired by a very important event in our history and our freedom and our independence.”
The song (which officially became the national anthem in 1931) was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, after the amateur poet was moved by the sight of an American flag being raised after a battle, signaling a victory over British forces during the War of 1812. Says Turner, “Every time I went to sing the anthem, whether I was in high school singing for an assembly program or singing at an NFL game, I always try to envision what Francis Scott Key saw when he was inspired to write this song.”