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The most iconic — and controversial — national anthem performances of the last 87 years

The most iconic — and controversial — national anthem performances of the last 87 years
Posted at 7:32 AM, Mar 03, 2018

Saturday marks the 87th anniversary of the "Star-Spangled Banner" being named the national anthem — and the song hasn't seen this much controversy since being anointed the official song of the United States in 1931.

On top of becoming a political platform for athletes and politicians alike, the anthem has seen some of its most unique performances in the past year — most notably, Fergie's controversial rendition at the 2018 NBA All Star game.

But Fergie's version of the "Banner" is just one of many controversial renditions of the song. As it celebrates it's birthday as America's anthem, let's revisit a few more notable renditions.

Jose Feliciano — 1968 World Series

Feliciano was among the first artists to deviate from the traditional playing of the anthem — and he did it in front of a nationwide audience. 

With the country already divided by the Vietnam War, Feliciano's rendition outraged many. Newspaper reports called Feliciano's performance "disgraceful," and some called him a "hippie."

Despite the controversy at the time, Feliciano was invited back to Detroit to sing the anthem 44 years later before a Tigers playoff game, where he received unanimous applause.

Jimi Hendrix — Woodstock (1969)

Prior to Hendrix's performance at Woodstock, it was hard to imagine the national anthem being played on an electric guitar. Now, it's considered one of the most iconic renditions of the anthem ever performed.

Roseanne Barr — San Diego, 1990

Comedienne Roseanne Barr is not known for her singing voice, and it showed during her rendition of the anthem prior to a baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds. She screeched her way through the anthem, and capped it all off by spitting on the ground and grabbing at her crotch.

Barr maintains her act was a joke, and told the Washington Post that she wasn't trying to respect the anthem or the flag with her performance. President George Bush disagreed.

For her part, Barr maintains her version of the anthems was better than Fergie's.

Whitney Houston — 1991 Super Bowl

With the country newly entangled in a foreign war and security tensions high at the world's biggest sporting event, Houston delivered perhaps the most stirring and inspiring live performance of the anthem in the song's history. Even after her death, Houston's performance at the Super Bowl remains one of her most played songs.

Jack Black — Los Angeles, 2011

Black is most known for his slapstick comedy, so it must have been strange for fans of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks step to the mic for the anthem in 2011.

However, Black is one half of the musical duo known as Tenacious D, and showed off his pipes in the 2003 comedy "School of Rock." 

Whether or not the Staples Center crowd was ready for it, Black went out and delivered a stirring rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner."

Jesse McGuire — 2013 NFL Playoffs

Though the national anthem is played and sung live dozens of times each day, it's not often that an instrumental version of the anthem is played solo. McGuire, a renowned trumpeter, has played that anthem dozens of times at some of America's biggest sporting events, but his 2013 performance at a 2013 NFL playoff game between the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers reminded viewers that sometimes, the anthem is at its best on a lone trumpet.


Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.