Thursday, September 14, 2006

And the Rockets Red Glare

The national anthem of the United States was conceived on this day in 1814. Francis Scott Key's lyrics were originally a poem. The song was declared our anthem in 1931.

I love this song, quite possibly because I associate it with sports, and high patriotism. When I'm listening to it, I'm usually watching the World Series, or the Super Bowl, or the Olympics. When the song is sung right, it can make me feel chills. When the song is sung really right, it can make me cry. The song is dynamic, emotional, and evocative. I'm proud that it's America's anthem.

When I learned that today was the anniversary of the creation of this song, I read what Wiki had to say about the song. In the article, it stated that "Whitney Houston's rendition at Super Bowl XXV is often considered one of the best performances of the song." Really?

I managed to find a WAV recording of this version on the Web, but I was also quite surprised to see a complete video of this rendition on YouTube. Searching for the national anthem on YouTube produced a long list of fascinating variations. Here are four that strike the right notes to me. Enjoy!

Steven Tyler (World Series, 2004) - The front man for Aerosmith kicks out a version during Game 1 of my favorite World Series (at Fenway Park, Boston). He does it without instruments, and his unique voice and style shine through. A super delivery.

Destiny's Child (NBA All-Star Game, 2006) - Houston natives Destiny's Child perform a harmonized version of the anthem, and it's wonderful. Lots of texture in this variation. These three women add a touch of sex appeal to this song, and it works.

Marvin Gaye (NBA All-Star Game, 1983) - NPR reported that Marvin Gaye took the anthem to a new level in 1983. And when you watch it, you will agree. This is a quiet, instrospective arrangement. Fantastic.

Whitney Houston (Super Bowl, 1991) - Wiki was right. This is the definitive cut of the song. On the biggest stage, at the biggest game, Whitney delivers. She belts each high note out of Tampa Stadium. She's accompanied by the Florida Orchestra (conducted by Jahja Ling), but it does not overwhelm the power of her beautiful voice, singing this beautiful song. It's perfect.

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