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The Anthem, With Soul

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's stirring-yet-funky performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. Journalist and radio host Harry Allen joins us for a look back at a historic moment for the national anthem and for a gifted, but troubled, singer. And, Bruce Hornsby saw Gaye's performance. The Grammy-winning artist tells us what it was like and shares his own experiences performing the anthem.

Weigh in: Do you have a favorite performance of the anthem? A least favorite?


Harry Allen and Bruce Hornsby

Comments [17]

Howard from Washington Heights

Jimi Hendrix

Feb. 22 2008 10:40 PM
TishTash from Merrick, NY

I suppose the nationa lanthem is a little salute to the fact that we are able to enjoy a sporting event for a few hours. What's wrong with that?

Feb. 14 2008 10:03 AM
bn from bklyn

Wanda (#6) is RIGHT!!! What the hell is wrong with us, that we solemnize a cheesy marketing event like the Super Bowl or ANY SPORTING EVENT with the god damn national anthem? Why not sing it when you make a purchase at K-mart, for that matter? What on earth does the Super Bowl have to do with Patriotism!!?? Can anyone tell me?

Feb. 13 2008 02:36 PM
miguel from brooklyn

Jose Feliciano, sang the national anthem in 1968. Simply historic - do you have this clip?

SOUNDCHECK SAYS: Good call. Here's a link to his performance (from Feliciano's web site):

Feb. 13 2008 02:28 PM
Celia from NYC

Unless I've missed something, I'm suprised that Jose Feliciano's famous version has not been mentioned. I think it may have been the first non-traditional version performed at a sporting event. Excellent!

And Homer Simpson's half-hour version on The Simpsons deserves an honorable mention!

Feb. 13 2008 02:28 PM
Jenny from Great Barrington MA

my favorite was the James Taylor ver (with a brother, Liv?) at the US Open in about 2005 (guess). Great Show - thank you!

Feb. 13 2008 02:27 PM
michael connors from long island city

this is the greatest performance I've ever seen- sure to make you cry.

Feb. 13 2008 02:27 PM
alex from NYC

I second Jose Feliciano. It's online, here:

Feb. 13 2008 02:26 PM
Conrad from New York, NY

I recently saw the Marvin Gaye's version last year and I stopped cleaning my apartment because I was rivited. Definitely my favorite. Although Jimi Hendrix is close second. I am in the military for 20 years and I loved the reactions it got from some non-too open-minded officers when it was played in a deployment. It made me smile!!!

Feb. 13 2008 02:26 PM
Casey from Manhattan

Jimi Hendrix' performance of the anthem at Woodstock was electrifying (no pun intended).

Feb. 13 2008 02:23 PM
John Rousmaniere from NYC

The first people's national anthem that I ever heard still give me the shivers -- Jose Feliciano in a World Series in the late 60s. Its genius lay in his blend of soul, improvisation, and simplicity. It was different all right. There were boos. But it worked.

Feb. 13 2008 02:23 PM
wanda from kansas


Feb. 13 2008 02:22 PM

Marvin added rhythm to it. But I don't see how "sexiness" was a factor. The correlation between rhythm and sex is WAY overplayed...One simply does not - ipso facto - imply the other. And the rhythmically inclined know this.

Feb. 13 2008 02:21 PM
andy from manhattan

Hendrix was the first to open the door on interpretive takes on the National Anthem, wasn't he? He certainly was a good while before Marvin Gaye in personalizing it!

Feb. 13 2008 02:21 PM
Aaron from Manhattan

best: Jimmy Hendrix

worst: Rosanne Barr

Feb. 13 2008 02:19 PM

Marvin Gaye! Whew. Even D'Angelo tried to replicate this version at a boxing match...Some thoughts:
- Nobody booed. Though folks were stunned, at first.
- The Star Spangled Banner - the national anthem and supposedly a song for the people - is hard for most folks to sing. Marvin's version was the most participatory that it has EVER been; because if folks couldn't sing along, they the beat. It was the SSB interpreted through the inherent inclusiveness of Black musicking.

Other Bad*ss versions:
- Jimmy Hendrix - bluesy and accessible.
- Whitney Houston - Potent with gospel flare.

Feb. 13 2008 02:14 PM
Lenny from Da Bronx

Jordin Sparks represented at the Super Bowl although it was *totally* pre-recorded...

There's also a really painful version of Michael Bolton where either he got off with the pre-recorded track or the sound system delay got the better of him:

Feb. 13 2008 11:32 AM

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