Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, 1814
O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, 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.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
On Sept. 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington, DC. The release was secured, but Key was detained on ship overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. In the morning, he was so delighted to see the American flag still flying over the fort that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion. First published under the title “Defense of Fort M'Henry,” the poem soon attained wide popularity as sung to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The origin of this tune is obscure, but it may have been written by John Stafford Smith, a British composer born in 1750. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially made the national anthem by Congress in 1931, although it already had been adopted as such by the army and the navy.
played this on his guitar
Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand, EFX
07/04/02 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand, EFX
12/10/04 at a football game for his son's school
Oct. 7, 1968
Puerto Rican blind singer/guitarist Jose Feliciano stunned the crowd at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and the rest of America, when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem before Game 5 of the World Series between Detroit and St. Louis. The 23-year-old's performance was the first nontraditional version seen by mainstream America, and it is generally considered the Lexington and Concord of Star-Spangled Banner controversies. The fiery response from Vietnam-weary America was not surprising, considering the tumultuous year for American patriotism. Good or bad, however, Feliciano's performance opened the door for the countless interpretations of the Star-Spangled Banner we hear today.
Aug. 17, 1969
It wasn't a sports event, but it was controversial. During the final set of the historic Woodstock music festival Jimi Hendrix let loose with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner on electric guitar that's been called everything from the most important political rock statement of the 1960s, to an afterthought caught in one of Hendrix's worst performances. It was his first gig since the breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and all but 10% of the festival's 400,000 concert goers stayed for his Monday morning set. But there was no question the performance was controversial. Even today, music scholars can't agree on what message, if any, Hendrix's screaming guitar and ballistic feedback was trying to deliver.
[Note: Hendrix's entire Woodstock set, including the Star-Spangled Banner, can be heard on the 1999 MCA release Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock.]
Feb. 13, 1983
A little more than a week before Motown legend Marvin Gaye picked up two Grammy Awards for his classic "Sexual Healing," he performed the national anthem before the 1983 NBA All-Star Game at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Accompanied by a drum machine, Gaye's interpretation added elements of soul and funk to the national anthem. Gaye, who, coincidently, also sang the anthem during the same World Series as Jose Feliciano in 1968, was scrutinized for his performance, but the fallout didn't compare to that of Feliciano's rendition. The NBA players were most receptive. Especially Gaye fan Julius Erving, who loved the performance and went on to win game MVP honors.
[Note: Gaye's performance is the first track of the 1996 Polygram compilation NBA at 50: Musical Celebration.]
July 25, 1990
The poster child for Star-Spangled Banner controversy, Barr (whose last name and reputation were still intact at this time) tried to add her own brand of humor to the singing of the national anthem before a baseball game in San Diego. After screeching through an off-key version of the song she added some clichéd baseball humor by spitting and grabbing her crotch. The popular sit-com comedian immediately became public enemy number one. After hearing a tape of Barr, President George Bush called it "disgusting" and "a disgrace."
May 27, 2001
Singing on Memorial Day before the start of the Indianapolis 500, Steven Tyler, lead singer of the rock group Aerosmith, angered veterans by changing the last line of the song. Instead of singing "home of the brave," Tyler sings "home of the Indianapolis 500." He apologized the next day, releasing the following statement: "I got in trouble my whole life for having a big mouth. I'm very proud to be an American and live in the home of the brave."
May 25, 1965
Although he was born in the United States, Robert Goulet moved to Canada when he was 14 years old and had never sang the Star-Spangled Banner in public before May 25, 1965. That night, moments before the much-anticipated rematch of boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine, Goulet began, "Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early night..." The bout lasted less than one round, and the disappointing fight didn't provide a big enough shadow for Goulet's performance to hide behind. Although he's done it without incident hundreds of times since, Goulet says he is always asked about his infamous flub.