The Worst Star-Spangled Banner Performances of All-Time
Many people believe our National Anthem should be changed.
They insist “The Star-Spangled Banner” is way too difficult to sing, which is true. They insist the song penned by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 florifies violence, which is true. They say there are far better arrangements of music which symbolizes our national aspirations, such as “America the Beautiful,” which is true.
Indeed, there are a number of very valid reasons why the current National Anthem makes no sense at all.
But there’s also a very good reason why we should keep it. And I think it’s a valid one.
Much like the fabric of our nation, which is a giant mis-matched quilt of richness and diversity, the eccelectic song that has come to represent it brings out the very best (and sometimes the worst) in those to attempt to honor its character and principles. No two “Star Spangled Banners” are the same. Every interpretation is somehow different. And frankly, as for performances, each time someone new makes the brave attempt to sing the anthem, there’s always an element of suspense for observers. Much like living the American experience, listening to our National Anthem being performed can be both envigorating as well as frustrating. Which suits me just fine.
Let me put it another way. I’d rather see the National Anthem performed with all the varied possibilities, including the very real potential for embarrassment and disaster, than be assured of constant perfection. Surely, whoever sings North Korea’s national anthem gets it right every single time and it always goes off without a hitch. I’ll pass on that guarantee, thank you very much.
Give me Carl Lewis massacering the anthem any day, rather than standing and paying some articifical homage to an awful dictator. Then again, on second thought…..
Last year in preparation for the Super Bowl game, I posted what I thought were the TEN GREATEST NATIONAL ANTHEM PERFORMANCES OF ALL TIME.
Let’s now go to the other extreme. Here’s the very worst of the worst. See if you agree:
I have no idea who this ”singer” is….let’s just hope she quit show business after this nightmare at an NHL game. She doesn’t even make it through the first stanza before crashing to the ice and running out of the arena:
CUBA GOODING, SR.
Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. has a father. Guess what his name is? That’s right — Cuba Gooding, Sr. A few years ago some masochist asked Daddy Gooding to step on the floor at an NBA game and give the anthem a go. Why not? If Daddy is anything like Son, the spectacle should have fun for everyone. Well, let’s be kind and say Cuba Gooding, Jr. is no Marvin Gaye, alright? But you wouldn’t know it from the sound blasting from the old man’s vocal chords. He absolutely butchers the anthem, and better yet appears so incredibly delusional that he thinks he’s nails it at the end of the song. Actually, it’s so bad — that it’s actually good. Great bad. Have a listen:
Running track and field and winning Olympic Gold medals looks easy compared to singing our National Anthem, as this infamous video from the 1980′s shows. Sprinter Carl Lewis butchers the song almost beyond recognition. I have no idea what he could have been thinking, nor why he’d accept an invitation to sing when — HE CAN’T SING! Don’t they screen people or make someone audition? Are celebrities automatically assumed to be worthy of singing the anthem, just because they’re famous? Who knows? I’ve posted two versions here, which will trigger a mix of both pain and laughter:
A longer alternative version with profane-filled commentary:
B-List television actress and lunatic Roseanne Barr’s version is pure torture. The sound of hell on earth. She was inexplicably asked to perform the National Anthem at the very height of her career way back in 1990, at a San Diego Padres baseball game. Things go wrong from the very first note. The crowd gets openly hostile after the first verse is completed and by the end of the song, the entire stadium is booing openly. One assumes she probably needed an armed security detail to leave the building. Barr’s rendition caused a major firestorm not just in the sports world, but in national media as well. Even then-President George Bush, Sr. called Barr’s act “disgraceful.” I don’t agree with anyone named President Bush often, but after reflecting one more time upon this disaster, I have to admit he’s right. See if you agree:
(Note: The tape starts playing about 15 seconds in, with visuals)