Saturday, February 18, 2012
Whitney Houston Singing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl (1991): Did She Set the Standard?
[Previously, on Whitney Houston, at WEJB/NSU:
“Whitney Houston Dead at 48: Racist Singer Found Submerged in Beverly Hills Hilton Bathtub Saturday; She Struggled for Years with Drug Addiction; Cause of Death Pending”;
“Thou Shalt Not Blaspheme the Diva: Fox Tampa Bay Facebook Censor Deletes Less than Worshipful Memory of Whitney Houston”; and
“Hosts of KFI’s John & Ken Show Suspended for Telling the Truth about Whitney Houston; Reconquistas Demand Termination; Prosecution to Follow?”]
By Nicholas Stix
Last Saturday, I heard or read someone saying that Whitney Houston had set the standard for singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” I thought to myself, Isn’t that odd? Why would anyone think to bring up the matter? Moments later, I learned why.
I couldn’t recall Houston’s rendition, and hunted it down.
There are many adjectives I could use to describe it, but “standard-setting” is not one of them. Granted, I have heard worse—there seems to be an unofficial can-you-top-this contest among contemporary performers, as to who can treat our national anthem with the most contempt—and Houston wasn’t the first to butcher it, but she was surely a powerful influence on the movement to ruin it through embellishment, self-indulgence, and general disrespect.
The earliest offenders in this category were Jimi Hendrix and Jose Feliciano, who were no friends of America.
Things have gotten so bad that people under a certain age surely assume that the butchered versions are the "correct" ones and that anyone who sings the Anthem cleanly, respectfully, and in the traditional manner, is screwing it up.
Robert Merrill Singing Our National Anthem, the Way It was Meant to be Sung
Thanks to gentamicinman.
Robert Merrill, U.S. Air Force Band, Singing Sergeants, Conductor Amy R. Mills at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., undated.
For 30 years, Robert Merrill (Moishe Milstein), 1917-2004, was the star baritone of the Metropolitan Opera. And did he love America! He stuttered as a child, was the son of poor, Polish immigrants, and as a Jew, wasn’t even permitted to buy a box at the Met, let alone sing there. But in the sort of story that is increasingly rare in diverse America, he made all his dreams come true, through talent and pluck!
Many a time, as a child, I watched Merrill sing the Anthem live on TV at Yankee Stadium, before a Yankees game. For although the Mets were, and remain, first in my heart, I also watched as many Yankee games as possible each year.
Merrill always gave the song the powerful, clean, respectful interpretation that it deserves. He set the standard, and he never tired of singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The above performance is far from his best, because he was in his late seventies or older, but even on his worst day, he could whip today’s young “celebrities.” If I or one of my readers can find an earlier Merrill performance with high-quality audio, I will post it.