Like any piece of art, our national anthem is open to interpretation and the inevitable remix. But when you step into the realm of the unknown in front of a national TV audience (not even close to global, Roger Goodell. Not even close), you’d better get it right. With Super Bowl 50 fast approaching we figured it would be good to take a look back at the top four performances of the Star Spangled Banner.
Without further ado:
#4 — Jose Feliciano Angers America (Fuck Yea!) Before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series
Rumor has it, it was the first remix of the Star Spangled Banner to be performed in front of a national audience and it caused quite a stir. Irate callers blew up the switchboards and veterans threw their shoes at the television. Feliciano was blacklisted for his remix, with radio stations from coast to coast pulling his songs from rotation. I was not alive at the time, but I’m sure I would have thought it was kinda groovy. I’m not sure the video still exists, but here’s a clip of the version Feliciano did last year at Detroit’s Comerica Park, which sounds like the one he did over 40 years ago.
#3 – Whitney Houston Just Kills It
In January of 1991, Operation Desert Storm had just kicked off and the liberal media whipped young Wheaties into a patriotic fervor. Before Super Bowl XXV, Houston was singing at the height of her powers and pulled off the last, great “straight-up” version of the Star-Spangled Banner. She hit every note perfectly, just before she started hitting the pipe perfectly. Nobody outside of NY remembers that particular Super Bowl, but everybody remembers that Whitney Houston loves America. The performance sealed both Bobby Brown’s and Bin Laden’s affection for the pop star. It also sealed the first step towards their downfalls.
#2 – R. Kelly Paves the Way for Obama’s Rise
R. Kelly is more responsible for the election of our current President than anyone other than the man himself. Even after Michael Jordan’s romp through the 1990’s NBA, Chicago still wasn’t that cool in the eyes of the rest of the country. R Kelly and his 20 years of baby making music made the windy city cool again. These are facts.
Before the Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor fight in December 2005, Kells gave a once in a lifetime performance of the Star Spangled banner that included Chicago-style step dancing, soul clapping and a beat. The live audience didn’t appreciate it but I, along with the rest of America did (or at least should have). R. Kelly made Chicago cool, made America cool and thus made it possible for President Obama to emerge from the Midway and take the White House. Once again, these are facts.
#1 – Marvin Gaye… Nuff Said
Two words sum up the greatest ever performance of the Star Spangled Banner. Marvin Gaye. His remix at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game (is there a greater annual show?) showed us that it is possible to make women thrown their panties on the stage, even when you’re honoring America. The crowd at the Forum in LA was treated to a gift that keeps on giving to this day.
For those of you wondering, an inspired Larry Bird scored 14 points, grabbed 13 boards and dropped 7 dimes that game. Just another day at the office, really.