National Anthem, Jose Feliciano-Play Ball!

It’s a great day, opening day of the baseball season! One of the unofficial holidays in the life of sports fans across America. Lucky me, on Spring Break and working from home this week got to see all the opening day festivities on TV, live from Miami.
They had all kinds of pregame fanfare: F-16 flyover, Vegas style showgirls escorting the players onto the field, an appearance by the ‘Champ’ Muhammad Ali and of course the National Anthem, sung by Jose Feliciano.
I am not one who usually enjoys much deviation of the norm on the Star Spangled Banner. I just don’t think it’s a song that should be used for personal self promotion and showing off what a great singer you are. The reason it is sung at events is to honor our country. So the runs, trills and ‘check me out’ vocal fireworks are usually out of place. And that is coming from a musician who loves to hear unique performances and musicians strut their stuff, just not so much on the National Anthem.
The Anthem just like all songs has room for interpretation. If a musician can embellish the intent and lyrics of the song, musically, I am all for it. Whitney Houston’s Superbowl XXV version is still the standard of great Anthem performances. A touch of her own personality and a boat load of passion! There are other famous versions out there too. Jimi Hendix’s opening of Woodstock was definitely not a traditional rendition in the least, but, has stood the test of time as a classic and was appropriate for the venue it was intended. Then there is the infamous. Roseanne Barr and her crotch grabbing, spitting and horribly out of tune antics at a San Diego Padre’s game in 1990 comes to mind.
Back to today’s baseball game, I was really taken by Jose’s rendition. It was a toned down version. Jose and his guitar. His arrangement is a bit pop/folkish, and although he lent his own style he was true to the melody. There are no ‘check me out’ antics. The lyrics were given precedence. Above all, aesthetically it was enjoyable.
Living in our modern world I immediately went online to see if it was posted yet and was surprised by what I did find. Feliciano originally performed this rendition in 1968 for a Detroit Tigers World Series game. He became a target of American’s who were used to ‘traditional’ performances.
His career suffered after the performance. He was boycotted by radio stations which obviously had ill effect on record sales.
Personally, I always thought he was a great singer, but, never knew much about him. Think I am going to listen to more of his music and find out more about him. Don’t be surprised to hear more about Jose Feliciano in future posts!

On another note: It was great to see Muhammad Ali driven onto the field before the game, but, so sad to see how his health has declined, Godspeed Champ!
And to all of you baseball fans out there…PLAY BALL!

About mikeslayen

Guitarist/Instructor

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