Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Mailgned Star-Mangled Banner


The first "pop" performance of [The Star Spangled Banner] heard by mainstream America was by Puerto Rican singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano. He shocked some people in the crowd at Tiger Stadium in Detroit and some Americans when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem before game five of the 1968 World Series between Detroit and St. Louis. This rendition started contemporary "Star-Spangled Banner" controversies. The response from many in Vietnam-era America was generally negative, given that 1968 was a tumultuous year for the United States. Despite the controversy, Feliciano's performance opened the door for the countless interpretations of the "Star-Spangled Banner" heard today.

The YouTube video I linked is reflective of my point; it's a statement about how willing we are to accept, even honor, artistic reinterpretation now. It's a post-modern deconstruction age, baby. While the video author was conscious of the history behind the video and considered it another depth of his affection for the music, it wasn't more than an acknowledgment. It was a good track to match his photos.

But when you consider the written history of the time, it was almost a, "get a bodyguard, we're fatwa-ing your ass", uproar that was drowned out by other uproars. The bloody Democratic convention of 1968 was scarcely 5 weeks past. NOW and other Women's liberation causes staged a massive protest outside the Miss America pageant in New Jersey in September; we still talk about 'bra-burning' because of it. And scarcely 5 days later, Tommie Smith and John Carlos held the blck power salute during the Star-Spangled Banner at their Olympic Games medal ceremony.

Most of us forget about Feliciano and his uproar because Hendrix 10 months later really set the Closed-Minded Bunch's underwear on fire, with his electric guitar belting out literal sonic bombs and rockets.

There's a YouTube link of Feliciano talking about the anthem and the event, but it has him talking through most of the clip. I always considered Jose just the guy whom did "Feliz Navidad" - but his expression then and his thoughts now show him to be real musical artist. I've been schooled. Big.

But was the anthem mangled?? I take issue with the inclusion of the artistic renderings and their controversies alongside the horrific train wrecks of forgotten words and poor pitch. Does Marvin Gaye compare to Rosanne Barr? I don't think so.

For a country who's post-modern image has shaped much of the world, the reinterpretation of the national anthem should be welcomed, if not expected.

8 comments:

Twinky P* said...

Heh. I was one of the few that thought Rosanne's Anthem was funny!

So, spill. How was Watchmen? I'm thinking of going this weekend, if for nothing else than to see giant, blue balls up on the screen! *smirk*

Twinky P* said...

BTW, our dear Judith left an italics tag open somewhere! Whoopsie!

Anjha said...

Wow, Id. I do not think that it was an "inconsequential hx lesson" - I found it interesting and of consequence.

I had no idea. And - doh - I did not even know that Feliciano was blind!!

We used to take our stereo speakers and face them out the windows of the upstairs and play Hendrix's version every New Year's Eve at midnight - loud, loud, loud...throughout the neighborhood.

I alwasy felt in my punk ass way that we were being Patriotic.

What could be more Patriotic than artistically expressing oneself with the Anthem or any other American kitsch? I think that art is one of the most thorough ways of sharing emotion and bringing others into that emotion. It is a way of changing the world.

Now, husband had Hendrix's version as his cell phone ringer which is also his alarm and it drives me nuts. It goes off every morning several times and has totally ruined it for me - stealing the good memories and replacing them with memories of kicking the bastard to make him turn it off. Grrr.

I hates me alarm clocks that are ignored by the subject and wake everyone else but...that is not what snooze was designed for!

Seven of Six said...

Hendrix was invited on Dick Cavett's show and explained that it was his patriotic version of the Star-Spangled Banner.

I mean, especially after he was able to throw in the caveat that he was an honorably discharged veteran who served with 101st Airborne out of Ft. Campbell, KY.

Don't know why you always have to prove you're a patriot by being a veteran or not?

idiosynchronic said...

For the same reason Heinlein gave only veterans suffrage in Starship Troopers.

Thanks for that Seven - It got me to a link from NPR with both Hendrix and Felciano's comments and performances. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99505099

Seven of Six said...

And really, think about it... I do think it was a time when white christian males were feeling their space invaded... women wanting out of the kitchen, kids growing their hair long and smoking pot, Latinos and Blacks doing artistic renditions of the Star Spangled Banner! It must have been the end of society as they saw it... their friggin' way of life ending!

Of course if Elvis Presley or Hank Williams would have ever done an artistic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, nobody would have ever said a word.

Seven of Six said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven of Six said...

Sorry... I doubled posted.