Many guitarists today still can’t catch up to what Jimi Hendrix played over forty years ago, and his groundbreaking interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner was just one of many great moments of his all too brief career.
It was an event not many saw, it came late in the Woodstock festival when many were burned out and had already headed home, but its impact still stands.
At first, it was considered somewhat blasphemous that a rock guitarist would play the National Anthem through a wall of Marshalls, now many great guitar players have performed their own versions and no one gives it a second thought. (You may also recall Marvin Gaye’s slow and sexy interpretation of the National Anthem at a 1983 All Star Game was also looked at askance, now it’s also considered a milestone interpretation.)
Hendrix’s version is still the touchstone for many guitar players, especially Jimi disciples like Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Slash, and Steve Vai. Johnson and Vai did their interpretations at the Rock N Jock charity baseball games that raised money for the TJ Martel Foundation, but we’ve also recently seen Satriani, Slash and Zakk Wylde performing the National Anthem at regular sporting events as well.
To try and recreate Jimi’s magic, you’ll probably want to start with a stratocaster guitar armed with a whammy bar, although Slash and Wylde did their versions with Les Pauls, Marshall amps (You don’t need the wall of them Hendrix played through, Johnson and Vai played theirs through half stacks), and of course, a wah-wah pedal to help bring the notes alive, and give them vocal style expression.
Jimi will always be the first and the best, but if your heart’s in the right place, and you’ve put in your time at the practice shed, you should still be able to pay honor to our country this 4th of July, very loudly and proudly.