10 versions of The Star-Spangled Banner to celebrate Independence Day

American Flag
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Today, the USA will celebrate the anniversary of their declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776. They’ll do it with parades, fireworks displays, barbecues and competitive beer chugging.

To mark the occasion across the pond, we thought, ‘What’s the most American thing ever?’ And the answer was simple: Kid Rock dressed as Uncle Sam, shooting a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not a lot we can do with that, so what’s the second most American thing?

YouTube clips of rock stars performing The Star-Spangled Banner in a variety of situations, from ice hockey games to Woodstock.

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10. Flea

Before Los Angeles Lakers took on Utah Jazz at the Staples Centre in April, basketball nut Flea was invited to perform the national anthem. Here, the fully-clothed Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist tiptoes away from the recognisable structure of the song and gives The Star-Spangled Banner an improvisational jazz bent. But, with a smidge of distortion and a wah-wah pedal, it often sounds like Charles Mingus doing a sad fart in the bath. It worked for the home team though, as the Lakers won 101-96.

9. Zakk Wylde

The Black Label Society guitarist recorded this clip in 2010 to show solidarity with US troops serving at home and overseas. Here, Zakk Wylde blasts his way through the song, adding enough hammer-ons and sustain to make it more metal than a Wacken bullet belt stall, run by Rob Halford.

8. Slash

Moments before Los Angeles’ 2009 clash between the Clippers and the Lakers, Slash gifted the arena with a no-frills performance while circled by players and cheerleaders. It was just another day in the life of a man who wears a leather top hat with such reckless courage. Incidentally, the Lakers won by seven hoops or whatever it is.

7. Ted Nugent

The Dallas Cowboys signed up Uncle Ted to treat the crowd to a few minutes of nuanced fretwork before their 2010 playoff versus Philadelphia Eagles. After a very tense match, it was decided that wildlife was the winner.

6. Dave Mustaine

Here’s the Megadeth frontman performing at an MTV event in the summer of 1992. Notice how he plays it with all the gusto and emotion of a man who seems he’d rather be anywhere but a dusty baseball diamond. Even Lars Ulrich’s sofa.

5. Mike McCready

The Pearl Jam guitarist takes The Star-Spangled Banner to sexy new levels, if his face at 56 seconds is anything to go by.

4. Yngwie Malmsteen

At the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods, the Swedish guitar wizard unleashed a burst of neoclassical fury all over his frets with some million-miles-per-hour noodling. Like his chunky gold bracelets, it’s all a bit much at times, but impressive all the same.

3. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

Metallica’s guitar reps James and Kirk stepped onto the court of Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals to provide some entertainment before the Golden State Warriors' fixture versus the Toronto Raptors. Keep an ear out for Hetfield’s minor chords which makes everything sound a bit like a grand riff from …And Justice For All. It didn't quite work out for Metallica's home team though, as they lost to Toronto, who took home their first ever NBA title.

2. Kiss

Taken from their Alive III release, here’s the most straight-down-the-middle rendition of the national anthem you’ll ever hear. They even set off a volley of fireworks to give it that celebratory party feel. But then, every Kiss gig must feel like the fourth of July.

1. Jimi Hendrix

On the morning of August 18, 1969, Hendrix played Woodstock with his short-lived line-up Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (later named Sky Church during the same show, so you know they’d had a good weekend). Towards the end of his set, he dropped in a overdriven, distorted and generally fucked-up version of The Star-Spangled Banner. Some conservatives say it was wholly offensive and caused them to wretch into their own hands, while others believed it to be a noisy statement against the Vietnam War. So what’s the answer? Well, it’s said that by the time Hendrix took to the stage that morning, he’d been awake for three consecutive days. So the answer is anyone’s guess, really.

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.