Ron Coffey mentioned on his blog about Jose Feliciano’s singing of the Star Spangled Banner at a Detroit Lions game in 1968. Feliciano, a gifted blind guitar player/singer from Puerto Rico, decided to do a changed up rendition of the anthem and the traditionalist in the crowd didn’t take kindly to it.
The late 1960s were a time of change and controversy and much of the disagreement was centered around America’s involvement in Vietnam. I was teaching high school at Villa Park, CA, a pretty upscale and conservative community in the heart of Orange County, and there wasn’t a lot of tolerance for anyone with a liberal, anti-war train of thought. Most of the students at VP were against the war while most of their parents were hard-core America, love it or leave it types. One of the easiest ways to arouse the establishment in those days was to engage in anything approaching desecration of a national symbol.
I was a pretty smooth dresser at the time and had purchased a wide silk necktie that closely resembled the American flag. It had red and white vertical stripes and a blue patch with a few white stars. Every time I wore it to school it caused an uproar within the staff and administration. All the liberal anti-war crowd thought it was simply too cool while the conservative hawks wanted to carve “commie” on my chest and send me packing!
It’s pretty amazing how much less controversial such things are today. In the 1980s I owned a number of knitted polo shirts with red, white, and blue patriotic themes and the general attitude was total acceptance.
I don’t recall the controversy surrounding Feliciano but a year later, in 1969, Jimi Hendrix helped close out Woodstock with his now famous distorted guitar version of the nation’s anthem. Even today rock historians can’t agree on just what Hendrix had in mind but I’m certain there were a lot of Captain Americas who went ballistic when Jimi turned his Stratocaster’s knobs all way to the right!
Between 1968 and today countless performers have put their personal twist on the anthem and most of us have come to accept and even enjoy it. But, while I was reading Coffey’s blog I couldn’t help but wonder what those fire-breathing conservatives at the 1968 World Series would have done with a Roseanne Barr?