Oh Say, Can't You Sing: Celebs Who Tortured the National Anthem


It wasn't' too far off from Leslie Nielsen's version as Detective Frank Dreben in "The Naked Gun" when he sang " ... and the rocket's red glare, lots of bombs in the air," while impersonating an opera singer asked to do the honors at a ballpark.

Certainly, anything can go wrong in a live, televised performance with tens of thousand of people watching. In one of the most notorious incidents, former "Xena: Warrior Princess" star Lucy Lawless performed the National Anthem at a 1997 Detroit Red Wings game wearing an ultratight bustier. When she spread her arms to belt out that big final note, the land of the brave became the home of the free show.

Just last year, at a Canada-U.S. hockey game in Quebec, Caroline Marcil, a Canadian singer in her early 20s, forgot the words of "The Star Spangled Banner" -- not once, but twice -- and with fans booing, she left the ice to get the lyrics, only to fall on her butt. She later sang the song on "Good Morning America" without a hitch.

Then there are those stars who have deliberately changed the words, thinking they could stylize the national anthem as if it were any song. When Aerosmith's Steven Tyler performed the honors at the 2001 Indianapolis 500, he thought the crowd would welcome it when he finished with " ... and the home of the Indianapolis 500." Perhaps Tyler thought the flag he was saluting was checkered.

Of course, many sports fans think the last line of "The Star Spangled Banner" is "Play Ball!" ... with the possible exception of Atlanta's baseball fans, who seem to think the song ends "... and the home of the Braves!"

Hendrix Guitar Salute Now Gallantly Streaming

To be sure, many stars have done the song honor. Marvin Gaye lent his sexy voice to the NBA's 1983 All-Star game, which was re-released in 1996. Whitney Houston's rendition at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, became a big hit.

But deviate too far from the traditional stars-and-stripes tribute, and disaster looms. At the fifth game of the 1968 World Series, Jose Feliciano, a blind folk singer from Puerto Rico, strummed a bluesy "Star Spangled Banner" on acoustic guitar. Critics would one day hail the performance, but the Tiger Stadium crowd booed Feliciano and his guide dog off the field.

A year later, Jimi Hendrix would open Woodstock with an ear-splitting salute to the flag. His blistering guitar version of "The Star Spangled Banner" went on to become one of the great countercultural moments of the 1960s.

At the time, Hendrix' "Star Spangled Banner" was an affront to mainstream America. But 35 years later, John Popper of Blues Traveler would copy the Hendrix version, in all its thunderous splendor, and would be invited to perform it for before President Bush at the 2005 Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball, where nobody found it the least bit controversial.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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