Yesterday, Boing Boing, which prides itself on accuracy, posted a mugshot of no less than Igor Stravinsky, under the title 'Igor Stravinsky, arrested for "tampering" with the Star Spangled Banner, 1940'. The post prompted the inevitable cascade of comments from readers whose sense of democracy had been (rightly) offended - a couple even observe (probably wrongly) signs of the venerated composer having been beaten up by the police.
Boing Boing is not the first blog to publish the photo (below) and the story (just Google it and you'll see). However. Take a careful look at the photo:
Now, check out your encyclopaedia, if you have one, or run a simple search for "Stravinsky" "Boston" "anthem". Here are a couple of results from what you'll probably agree are reliable sources:
'Stravinsky's unconventional major seventh chord in his arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner led to an incident on January 15, 1944 with the Boston police, but "Boston Police Commissioner Thomas F. Sullivan said there would be no action" (Wikipedia).
'Igor Stravinsky was greeted with silence, in Boston in 1944, when he conducted a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of his own orchestrated version of the anthem. The police showed up the next night to make sure he didn't play it again' (Boston.com, News).
'Other versions of the anthem left the words alone but altered the melody, in one case so drastically that it got the composer/conductor in trouble. When Igor Stravinsky raised his baton in Boston in 1944 you would have thought he was Roseanne Barr. [...] Boston authorities warned Stravinsky that he was afoul of a state law that forbade rearrangement of the anthem. Music critic Albert Goldberg noted Stravinsky's version was banned in Boston and booed in Baltimore, but he escaped sanctions' (George Mason's University History News Network).
The date on the mugshot is 1940. The "tampered" version of the Star Spangled Banner was performed in 1944. This means, rather obviously, that the photo was taken four years before the incident with Boston police. The only sources I have come across affirming that Stravinsky was actually arrested while in the US and linking the photo taken in 1940 with the 1944 incident happen to be blogs. Of which I run one, so clearly I've nothing against the medium. But I'm not a fan of sloppy journalism, to which this medium unfortunately lends itself, nor of passing off unverified rumours (as in the case of Stravinsky's alleged arrest) or fabricated stories as news and urban legends as facts.
So. Was Igor Stravinsky ever arrested for re-arranging the US national anthem? Well, I don't know, but I've yet to see any evidence that he was. Was he arrested for anything ever in the US? I don't know that either, but given that he moved to the US in late 1939 and married Vera de Bosset on 9 March 1940 in Massachusetts (capital: Boston) I can at least imagine that the mugshot, which is dated 15 April 1940, was probably taken for some unexciting bureaucratic reason that wouldn't make for eye-catching blog-headlines...