Must The National Anthem Be Triumphant? Ctd

Favorite renditions are pouring in from readers. The second-most recommended, behind Marvin Gaye's:

A reader comments:

Want to talk about a national anthem that is unorthodox? The Star Spangled Banner discussion begins and ends with Jimi Hendrix. It's frustrated, psychedelic, tragic, yet also inspiring and downright beautiful. The improvisational madness that comes off of Rockets Red Glare and Bombs Bursting In Air perfectly captures not only the words they follow, but absolutely everything that America was undergoing at that time in history.

He came under plenty of criticism for it, too. His response? "I’m an American, so I played it. I thought it was beautiful."


Two weeks after Whitney Houston sang her version at the 1991 Super Bowl (and two weeks closer to the imminent deployment of ground forces in Desert Storm), Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby played a version at the 1991 NBA All-Star game. Pensive, nuanced, moving in ways that triumphant versions by definition can't even consider, and perfect for the moment even for a marquee sporting event. It's always been my favorite.

Another from the Gulf War era:

How about the anthem at the 1991 NHL All-Star game at the old Chicago Stadium? To me, this is the ultimate in patriotic displays. The Chicago Stadium was incredibly loud, you could barely hear yourself think from all the cheering.


I've always loved when the three members of the Grateful Dead sang the national anthem in Candlestick Park in 1993.

Another recommends the "pitchy and somber" performance by Billy Joel in 2007. Another:

I’m sure you guys have seen this, but I can’t watch performances of the national anthem without thinking of Maya Rudolph’s impressive rendition.


I couldn't find a recording, but Rena Marie got into all kinds of hot water here in Denver for her version!


Fortunately, as a young musician growing up in Chicago, I got to see and hear it done the right way. At the opening nights for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera, the conductor leads the audience, the orchestra plays, everyone stands (including the CSO cellos!) and everyone sings. To hear the anthem sung with vigor by 3000+ citizens is a very inspiring thing. As it should be. Here's a YouTube of the CSO and their current music director Riccardo Muti starting the 2010 season. It's hand-held, outdoors and slightly abridged, but speaks for itself. And by the way, a brisk tempo and snappy rhythms are the way the piece was written. Muti gets it right and, when I was younger, so did the CSO's Hungarian-English music director Sir Georg Solti. Go figure.

Another symphonic submission:

As a composer and huge fan of all of Igor Stravinsky’s music, my favorite story about the Star Spangled Banner has to be Stravinsky’s infamous connection to the tune. As the story goes, in 1943, Stravinsky got it in his head to write an arrangement of the national anthem. His arrangement is fairly conventional and far from the sounds of many of his other works. But Stravinsky’s reputation was as an iconoclastic bad boy. His Petrushka and Rite of Spring were well known by then (the Rite being particularly lodged in the public’s imagination as the piece that caused a riot in Paris upon its premiere.)

The apocryphal story continues that some folks in Boston heard that he planned on having the arrangement performed, so the town council passed a law restricting any rearrangement of the national anthem in whole or in part. The Boston police seemed to have contacted Stravinsky on about January 15, 1944 to warn him that MA could impose a $100 fine for a performance. The incident soon was mythologized into how Stravinsky was supposedly arrested for playing the music.

Here’s a YouTube of the arrangement’s performance. I find it a bit triumphant – except for the middle section ("and the rockets’ red glare…"), which is rather mournful to my ear. I rather like the Stravinsky arrangement, though.

Another adds to my comments on the moving rendition posted earlier today:

It always brightens my day (and brings a tear to my eye) to see this wonderful assist by Mo Cheeks – he truly showed class and empathy. However, I'd also like to point out how the Portland crowd reacted. Often, when there is an on-court mess-up, the crowd groans/mutters/boos. But this crowd quickly responds to her initial faltering by actively cheering her on, and there is no booing or hooting, before Mo comes out. Beyond a man helping a girl, it's heartening that the fans were literally cheering her on from the beginning. That was truly a great "collective response to failure", which ultimately became a wonderful success.

Another reader points to another assist of a girl by the crowd, when her mic cuts off.