When you think of a rock star playing a country’s national anthem, what do you think of?
For most of us, I would imagine Jimi Hendrix‘s performance of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock is the first thing to spring to mind.
It was a performance so memorable that it found its way onto a number of Hendrix’s Greatest Hits packages – but according to Hendrix scholar Joel Brattin, there are a number of interesting factors surrounding the performance. First off – despite the misleading video above, the national anthem was not performed on its own, but rather as part of a medley which included such classics as Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and Purple Haze, as well as a 5-plus-minute improvised guitar solo. It’s far from the only time Hendrix performed The Star Spangled Banner, with nearly 50 recordings of it believed to be in existence. Of those, 28 were recorded before Woodstock. Some are shorter, some longer, but this version is generally always considered to be among the best. When you consider that Hendrix was performing with a temporary band (who only played a handful of shows before disbanding), and that rehearsal tapes of said band showed they couldn’t play together all that well, it makes the Woodstock performance that much more impressive.
Given that it was such an iconic performance, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that numerous musicians have since tried to recreate that moment…
Like Primus did when they hit the stage at Woodstock ’94, where bassist Les Claypool threw a bit of the national anthem in Hendrix style into the middle of their song Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers… Then he quickly apologizes: “Sorry, I had to do it.”
The fun starts around the 4:20 mark… How fitting!
Given the shirt he was wearing, I’m surprised it took him that long to get into it!
Another person to do a similar performance on the American national anthem is Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, who did so on Wednesday night.
You see, Wednesday night was Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant‘s final game ever, and as a tribute to the man who served as one of the faces of the sport while playing in the Chili Peppers home state of California, Flea absolutely shredded a version of The Star Spangled Banner as the pre-game anthem. Have a look:
The Hendrix influence is obvious – tons of use of a wah pedal, and tons of extra notes thrown in for the lulz. The only thing he’s missing is a few massive whammy bar dives, but that’s only because his bass isn’t equipped with a whammy bar. If it were though…
Now while I rather enjoyed the performance (despite chuckling a few times at it), the response from fans was… less than favourable. A small sample:
“Kobe, who do you want to sing the National Anthem for your last game?”
“I want Flea to play it on his bass.”
“We can’t wait for you to go.”
— joe mande (@JoeMande) April 14, 2016
However, Flea is a professional, and he takes criticism with a grain of salt. This is what he had to say when TMZ caught up with him:
It’s not the first time Flea has performed The Star Spangled Banner in this fashion. Back in 2014, he was invited to play the pre-game anthem at another Lakers game, and that time, he was a little more true to the original:
So now the question becomes this: When are we going to get Geddy Lee covering O Canada on his bass like this?
I mean, sure, there’s this version with Geddy singing our national anthem, but there’s not much bass shredding like what he’s known for…
I’ll keep waiting patiently…