The national anthem:
Not just the same old tune…
At Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, Jose Feliciano started it all: His melodic voice sent out a slow, acoustic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner to 50,000 people at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
Before then, the national anthem at baseball games had been a traditional affair, with no room for improvisation. And the public didn’t exactly warm to the idea. War veterans around the country threw shoes at their TVs, radio stations stopped playing Feliciano’s songs, and thousands sent angry letters to NBC and the Tigers.
Feliciano dared to be different because he felt the national anthem deserved something more.
“I got tired of seeing people rush through the national anthem so they could have their popcorn and get to the game,” says Feliciano, a virtuoso guitarist of international acclaim. “Nobody ever sang the anthem with soul. It was always done clinically and they always stuck to the original. I put feeling into it. I sang it in a soulful manner.”
Fast-forward nearly a half a century later, and see how the world has changed. Today, no one throws shoes at singers who take creative approaches to the national anthem. In fact, it’s even encouraged, so long as the song and its tradition is still given a high measure of respect.