"The Star-Spangled Banner" officially became the national anthem 80 years ago, and it has been confounding singers — amateur and professional — at sporting events ever since.
Even if the performer aces archaic phrases such as "o'er the ramparts we watched," he or she may soon be humbled by the voice-busting finale that includes the "rocket's red glare." Francis Scott Key surely had bigger concerns than future singers' welfare when he penned the words during the height of an 1814 artillery attack.
See also: 5 Myths About the American Flag
Still, as the World Series and pro football season will attest, the anthem claims its rightful and honored place at the beginning of every professional game. It's a special moment shared by the people in the stands and the players on the field.
For the singer, however, the experience can be exhilarating, embarrassing or even controversial. Here, a few examples of each.
Christina Aguilera: 2011 Super Bowl
Christina Aguilera seemed like a sure bet for the featured spot at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas. The singer was used to performing in front of large crowds and boasted a singing range that could easily handle the high notes. The key wasn't the problem; Key's words were. Instead of singing, "O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming," Aguilera inserted the line, "What so proudly we watched at the twilight's last reaming." The singer was described as "devastated" after her performance, and apologized, "I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through."
Roseanne Barr: 1990 San Diego Padres Game
Sitcom star Roseanne Barr later blamed it on "starting too high in the wrong key." But the 30,000 people attending the second game of a Padres doubleheader were not amused and booed most of her screeching, off-key rendition. In a defiant exit from the field, she spat on the pitcher's mound and made a rude gesture. Her husband excused the performance as "satire." The Padres called it unfortunate, and apologized to an outraged national audience.
Michael Bolton: 2003 American League Championship Series
Michael Bolton definitely did not "rock" the cradle of American patriotism, Boston, in this painfully overwrought version of the anthem. The reverberations from Fenway Park's speakers seemed to throw him, and the crooner lost his way several times during the performance. Stumped for the next line after "O'er the ramparts we watched" he did what any middle-schooler might do in a pinch: he relied on crib notes of the lyrics written on his hand.