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Sunday, September 11, 2011
Personalizing the national anthem

Patriotic and political rituals that pervade our sporting events. And the performing of The Star-Spangled Banner, a part of just about every game, is heightened at major games and events (championships, Super Bowls, all-star games, event finals). And we expected that to even more so at today's Women's Final of the U.S. Open, played in New York on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

What I find interesting is the way artists can and do try to personalize the anthem, changing the entire tune and musical style of the song (particularly in non-traditional styles), and the way our reactions to that have changed. What is widely regarded as the first attempt at restyling was Jose Felciano's acoustic slow Latin jazz rendition before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit, which outraged fans (NBC stations were inundated with angry phone calls) and lead some radio stations to stop playing Feliciano's music for a time. On the other hand, the response was much more favorable to Marvin Gaye's rendition at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. And in 2010, Feliciano was invited back to Detroit to perform his version of the anthem during a memorial ceremony for late Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell. Are there other recent examples of performers making stylistic changes to the song?

All of which is by way of saying that our reaction to Queen Latifah's gospel/soul rendition before today's match is a product of its time:, It probablt would have been a subject of controversy 40 years ago; it now becomes an instant classic. Enjoy.


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