Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day always makes us remember the struggle for freedom Black Americans have been fighting for since the Revolutionary War. The patriotic Star-Spangled Banner was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key at the Battle of Baltimore while he watched US soldiers defend the American flag at Fort McHenry. Given its militaristic lyrics, many activists have a hard time enjoying the song, but we’ve managed to find the most soul-infused versions. Think we missed something? Share any other versions you love in the comment section.
Following her widely-praised-turned-lip-syncing-fiasco rendition of the national anthem at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration, Beyoncé silenced her critics when she called a press conference to set the record straight. Yes, she had pre-recorded the track, but this version puts to rest any question of her talent.
4, Sebastien de la Cruz
This 10 year-old San Antonio resident belted out our national anthem during the NBA Finals to the chagrin of internet racists who questioned his citizenship due to his Mexican heritage. Sebastien, though, remained unfazed: “For those that said something bad about me, I understand it’s your opinion. I’m a proud American and live in a free country. It’s not hurting me. It’s just your opinion.” He was invited back to perform two days later.
3. Marvin Gaye
This version of the national anthem will have you up and dancing with its drum accompaniment because when Marvin Gaye touches your music he’s going to add rhythm and soul. He delivers plenty of both in this jazzy version of the Star-Spangled Banner performed at 1983’s NBA All-Star game.
2. Jimi Hendrix
At 1969’s Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix shocked the world when he made his guitar sing with riffs that sounded suspiciously close to bombs dropping – critiquing the Vietnam War was certainly not unheard of at that time.
1. Whitney Houston
Who else could we have chosen for the number one spot on this list? The late, great Ms. Whitney Houston sung the Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl and her version was so great it was recorded as a charity single that reached #6 on Billboard’s Top Ten. Infused with Houston’s signature gospel vocals, it is a flawless performance that will turn the most critical patriotic and make you miss Ms. Houston even more.
by Shannon Shird, Community Outreach intern with Progressive Pupil and M.A. Candidate, The New School, International Affairs