Jose Feliciano: 1968 World Series
Blind Puerto Rican guitarist Jose Feliciano was an unconventional choice to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Game 5 in Detroit. And the 23-year-old obliged with what is generally considered the first non-traditional rendition of the national anthem at a major sporting event. His slow, Latin jazz-style performance caused a national outcry, particularly among recent Vietnam veterans. Feliciano recalled baseball announcer Tony Kubek telling him, "Do you realize what you've done? You have created a commotion here." A recording of Feliciano's performance achieved No. 50 on the Billboard charts, but many radio stations wouldn't play it. By his own account, his musical career did not recover for three years.
Jimi Hendrix: 1969 Woodstock
Perhaps 90 percent of the attendees had already gone home when Jimi Hendrix launched into an improvised version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to close the Woodstock Festival. There was no singing, just guitar and ballistic feedback. Hendrix later told talk show host Dick Cavett that he didn't intend any harm or major message by his rendition, and called it "pretty." No matter what you call it, Hendrix's "Banner" may come the closest of any version to capturing the sound of Key's "bombs bursting in air."