Who performed 'The Star-Spangled Banner' best: Whitney Houston or Jimi Hendrix? | The Tylt
The Whitney Houston and Jimi Hendrix renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" are two of the most jaw-dropping anthem performances of all time—both brilliant, yet completely different in their execution. Hendrix's 1969 Woodstock rendition was subversive, a "jarring, uplifting, haunting, energizing anthem" of protest. Houston sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the Gulf War at the 1991 Super Bowl. Both mighty and exquisite, it became a Top 10 radio hit. Who did it better? 🇺🇸 🎤🎸
Who performed 'The Star-Spangled Banner' best: Whitney Houston or Jimi Hendrix?
A 27-year-old Whitney Houston sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in 1991, at the peak of her vocal power, and she performed at an emotional moment for the country, which was only 10 days into the Gulf War. Her rendition is now widely considered to be the gold standard.
Whitney's critics—and yes, she does have some—complained that her version was pre-recorded. But the song's arranger argued lip-syncing was necessary because of the size of the arena. Amazingly, Houston recorded the notoriously challenging melody in one single take. She was "calmly joyful" as she performed in front of 70,000 people, wrote journalist Danyel Smith, and "people were weeping in the stands, weeping in their homes."
Most singers want out of that song. Most reach awkwardly for one note or another, or miss it altogether. It's not just that the song is a difficult one. It's difficult in front of people who want to feel the pride in the storybook words....Whitney's version made it all absolute, for a moment.
Hendrix's national anthem took guitar heroism to a whole new level, and his blistering rendition still blows minds to this day. For a Black guitarist and former U.S. Army paratrooper to perform such an unorthodox (and even anti-war) version of America's theme song in the midst of the Vietnam conflict was deeply subversive. It came to symbolize the entire 1960s counterculture; Bob Dylan reportedly called it "a cry of despair and love."
“It is significant in American discourse, whether cultural or political,” rock critic Marcus said. "It’s so complex, with so many different layers of disgust and celebration and alienation and engagement. There’s really no way to just characterize it as a protest against the war. It’s certainly that. But he’s also saying, ‘I’m a citizen of this country, too.’...what it said was, ‘I’m a native son. This belongs to me, the anthem and the country.’
25 years later, people still share Whitney's version and marvel at her talent.
I will always say this...whitney houston sang the BEST version of the Star Spangled Banner EVER EVER...not up for debate— Chante (@chante_frelot) June 29, 2017
When Dick Cavett asked Hendrix about the controversy surrounding his anthem, Hendrix replied:
“I don’t know, man. All I did was play it. I’m American, so I played it. They made me sing it in school, so it was a flashback. I didn’t think it was unorthodox,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful.”