Jimi Hendrix was a young black artist at the top of his game when he was the highest-paid musician at the time he headlined Woodstock Music & Art Fair.
He was scheduled to perform on a Sunday but due to the rain, his performance was pushed back into the following morning where he stood on stage in a field in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators and fans alike around 8-9 am and performed his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
It was piercing, jarring, and yet uplifting as the song was peppered throughout with Hendrix’s trademark use of amplifier feedback almost as conveying the sounds of war with a number of distorted reversions, almost mimicking the rockets and bombs that were lyrically featured in the anthem.
Hendrix performed this rendition at Woodstock in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War and this version still holds up in the present day, as it mirrors turbulent time in which we are currently living in the United States. As Hendrix himself said, ‘I’m American, so I played it’.
Hendrix’s interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner is probably one of my all-time favorites, however, at the time it was loved by fans but panned by political pundits as anti-American. While Hendrix was on the Dick Cavett Show, Cavett himself said the word “unorthodox” and Hendrix respectively disagreed and said he thought it was beautiful. Let’s not forget this man served in the military, he was in the 101st Airborne Division. Watch his rendition, and a clip of the interview with Cavett, below and try not to get goosebumps.