Today offers the perfect occasion for this truly stunning rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, offered by jazz trumpetist Chris Botti during Monday Night Football last week. There are those who wish our country had chosen a more melodic, easily sung national anthem than this complex and challenging tune. But I’ve always kind of liked how it defies the American stereotype. It’s not brash and obvious. It’s subtle and haunting in its tune and substantial in its lyrics.
It also allows for a bunch of different interpretations, many of which don’t exactly land with the American people. Too much warbling and deviation, too little vocal skill or familiarity with the words. But there are a couple versions, disparate in their styles, that have distinguished themselves as almost universally enjoyed— Whitney Houston’s and Jimi Hendrix’s versions foremost among them. This may be a new addition to that relatively short list. It’s surprising and interesting and moving, turning the Star-Spangled Banner into what sounds like a jazzy Christmas album, but without being at all cheesy. Reggie Wayne is brought to tears. Michael Strahan is all, “Praise the Lord.”
Bravo, Chris Botti. A fitting tribute today to those who risk all and sacrifice so much to keep that flag flying. Thank you, veterans!
What are your favorite versions? Put them in the comments!
And, because it’s Veterans Day, here’s my tribute to my grandma and grandpa, which I wore on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night. Thanks also to my paternal grandfather and my dad and countless friends and relatives for their service. Please check out what the Travis Manion Foundation (whose board I’m on) does year-round to serve those who serve, their families, and the memories of the fallen.