National anthem turns 200: hear its most iconic renditions

(NEWSY) It's been 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the iconic song that is performed everywhere from middle school assemblies to the Super Bowl. Yet despite it's vintage, "The Star-Spangled Banner" still holds the power to unite a nation - even if we don't love every rendition we hear.

While everyone tries their best to do the song justice, there are some performances that stay with us. In the song's 200 year history, it wasn't until the last 50 years or so that musical artists began putting their own signature on the classic ballad - which garnered mixed reactions.

"Some thought it was brilliant, others considered it disrespectful," according to NBC.

One such performance came from Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl. Giving one of the most memorable National Anthem performances of all time, Houston's rendition came at an important time for the country.

National Anthem Turns 200: Hear Its Most Iconic Renditions
National Anthem Turns 200: Hear Its Most Iconic Renditions

"With America immersed in the Persian Gulf War, the song was more than a prelude to a game. It spoke to a nation," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The electric performance was so popular, Houston's record label put it out as a single and upon its release it climbed to the top 20 on the Billboard charts.

"It may well be, with the exception of her version of Dolly Parton's, 'I Will Always Love You,' the most remembered thing about her," Billboard magazine editor, Danyel Smith, told ABC News.

But if there's a mark against Houston and her Super Bowl 25 Star-Spangled Banner performance, it's the controversy over whether or not the singer was lip-syncing, Smith said.

Which brings us to another famed performance, which unlike Houston's rendition, was live and remarkably bizarre. The artist in question? Jimi Hendrix.

"Jimi Hendrix reinvented it from top to bottom as a showcase for what could be done with extreme, high-volume electric guitar distortion, his riffs often interpreted as mimicking weapons explosions and bombs dropping from the sky," Rolling Stone wrote of the guitar god's Woodstock performance in August 1969.

While the performance received harsh criticism and left members of the audience clearly stunned by his revamp, it is certainly one of the most iconic versions of the 200-year-old anthem.

Marvin Gaye also took his turn at the Star Spangled Banner, but not the way anyone imagined. The Motown legend shocked the audience and the nation with his soulful rendition when he performed the classic in 1983.

"Gaye did handstands on the anthem's proper stylistic plank," Grantland wrote of the re-imagined performance.

For a song that is performed literally hundreds of thousands of times all over the country, every year it's impressive to be able to stand out in the crowd.

Which artist's version is your favorite rendition? Let us know in the comments.

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