Check Out Our Sports Photo Galleries Contact Us
Butchering our honored anthem ‘The Star Spangled Banner’
by David Farside
Jun 21, 2010 | 1470 views | 2 2 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Watching sporting events is a national pastime for many of us. Before the games begin, our national anthem usually is sung out of respect for our national heritage. The anthem is a symbol of our courage, bravery and valor during the Revolutionary War. In reverence to our legacy and the American flag, we place our right hand over our heart and reflect on the words and meaning of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  But over the years, the anthem has evolved from a symbol of patriotism to a form of entertainment — a stage for celebrities and rock stars to hit the high note in their own version and interpretation of our nation’s song of liberty.

Last week, prior to game seven of the NBA championship, pop star Christina Aguilera took her turn at publicly butchering our national anthem. She didn’t really sing anything. She shouted out the words and screamed as loud as she could, barely reaching the note everyone was waiting to hear. She seemed relieved when she was finished. Weren’t we all.

She joins a long list of performers who also have demeaned our national anthem, most notably Frank Sinatra and Roseanne Barr. Sinatra couldn’t even remember the words. In 1990, the Cincinnati Reds hired Barr to sing the national anthem before a home game against the San Diego Padres. Of course, she couldn’t sing and jokingly half-talked her way through her presentation. The public was outraged and her popularity has declined ever since. Barr defended herself, reminding everyone she is a comedienne, not a rock star. She quipped to a reporter, “At least I remembered the words.”

In 1932, President Herbert Hoover officially declared “The Star-Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. Other hymns such as “Hail Columbia” and “My Country ’Tis of Thee” also were considered. In the 1940s, Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” sung by Kate Smith was considered our unofficial wartime anthem.

Prior to 1968, the national anthem was performed in its traditional form. But that all changed 20 minutes before game five of the 1968 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

The play-by-play announcer for the Tigers was Ernie Harwell. He was in charge of finding performers to sing the national anthem before their home games. At the time, Jose Feliciano had a hit with “Light My Fire” and was performing in Las Vegas with Sinatra. Harwell invited the blind celebrity from Puerto Rico to sing the anthem.

While standing alone in left field before 54,000 fans with his dog, Trudy, by his side and with guitar in hand, Feliciano sang his own Puerto Rican style rendition of our anthem.  Some baseball fans applauded. Most people in the stands jeered and booed Feliciano before he exited the field. The phones started ringing at the stadium.  Channel 4, televising the game nationwide, was inundated with complaints throughout the game. Everyone was outraged. Harwell said he liked the version and didn’t see anything wrong with it and almost was fired over the incident.  Feliciano later apologized.

In defense of Feliciano, he always appreciated the opportunities and success he enjoyed in this country. He took advantage of the World Series appearance to thank all Americans for his success. In his heart, he wanted to share his love for our country through his own cultural, creative, upbeat rendition of our national anthem. He didn’t mean to insult anyone and never understood why everyone was upset.

The Feliciano website describes the country as divided in 1968. There was no end in sight to the Vietnam War. Both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated and the “younger generation didn’t trust anyone over 30.” Race, gender, class and age discrimination were evident in neighborhoods, the workplace and even on the battlefield.

The politics and anti-social attitudes of the younger generation were new and different. They challenged the traditional views of their parents. Their social behavior, the way they dressed and their long hair aggravated and intimidated the generation that knew wars, worked hard and survived tough times. But, like every new generation, it’s their music that reflects and creates the widest divide between the old and new generation. Feliciano’s appearance just emphasized the cultural differences.

To me, Jose Feliciano’s 1968 recording of the national anthem wasn’t that offensive. As a matter of fact, I thought it was performed with an honest, heartfelt reverence and the traditional respect it deserves. However, because the presentation wasn’t reflective of the traditional American style, the majority of Americans were irate.

Speaking now from the view of the old generation, all Americans should be irate with pop stars and celebrities of the new generation who, like Aguilera, use their so-called artistic license to create a new tradition of disrespect for our flag, irreverence for our heritage and mockery of country by butchering our nation’s hymn of pride, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at His Web site is
Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 25, 2010
This is why we have got to get Back door dill maker harry reid out if there.

He is not working for you and I,

He let other States get FREE health care,Did he do that for you. NO

Was he up set when the US flag was flying under the mexico flag in Reno,Did you here me RENO not some other State are State.


I love this Country and the Red White and Blue
June 23, 2010

Americans have openly been burning, desecrating and dishonoring Old Glory for the past 45 years. The latest insult is to fly the American flag beneath the flag of Mexico. Our Courts and our citizens allow it and our current Presdident bows down to lesser soverigns. A little creative talent shouting out our national anthem upsets you? Come on...where is your tolerance for the collective rights of others who could give a rats a$$ about America and what it stands for??
Featured Businesses