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Patriotism, Freedom & The Souls of Black Folk: African -American Performers & The National Anthem



Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852 gave a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration and asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass went on to say:

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine, You may rejoice, I must mourn.”


The rituals of patriotism have riddled the souls of people of African ancestry, due to the immense gap between what America claims to be and what it actually is.

The sentiment Frederick Douglass expressed is still relavent today because the evil within America is prevalent and unrepentantly virulent.

Throughout this tension of internal and external contradictions, people of African ancestry, expressing aspects of “double consciousness” sought to demonstrate their “love of country” and hope for better days by participating in the civic, religious, educational political, and social life of America as “Americans”.

Black people in America, for example have served in every war that America has waged, yet continue to fight for what seems to be elusive- basic human rights and dignity.

It is within this context, the African-American performer operates in.

On on hand he/she experiences the day to day struggle just to exist, yet hold deep within the essence of their very being, the conviction that better days are possible.

Whether  or not it’s recognized by the individual artist or not, this is the foundation of their creative expression, when they perform the American national anthem.

In each of the following performances, one can almost detect the cry for justice, the affirmation of dignity in the face of inhumane indignity and a call for a better tomorrow.

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Jimi Hendrix lived from November 27, 1942 to September 18, 1970.

Jimi Hendrix was not only born on the 27th of the month, he is also a member of the famed “27 Club”, passing away at the age of 27.

Hendrix is considered by many to be the best guitarist of all time.


Hendrix in his brief and illustrious career had numerous iconic moments, where he played the guitar with his teeth, or played his guitar behind the back of his head and set his guitar on fire.



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Jimi Hendrix’s probably most iconic public moment was his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the famed Woodstock Festival on August 18, 1969.

According to one writer on Jimi Hendrix’s performance of Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock:

“He played his own version of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock on August 18th, 1969, with his guitar, as a statement against the war.

People were shocked at his interpretation of the song, because solely with his guitar he incorporated sounds of war- bombs, jets flying over head,”




Marvin Gaye performed one of the most soulful moving renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, on February 13, 1983 at the 33rd NBA All-Star game.

The game was played at The Forum in Inglewood, California, which was also the home of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Marvin Gaye’s performance was so great, few remember the actual details of the NBA All-Star game, where Julius Erving, better known as “Dr. J” was the MVP.

The Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference by a score of 132-123.

The winner for that night was definitely Marvin Gaye.

Observe how those in attendance responded with spontaneous clapping to the beat and shrieks of emotion.

“I’ve gone on the record many times saying that Marvin Gaye was my favorite artist.

His music touched me in a deep, special and personal way.”

Julius “Dr. J” Erving


Whitney Houston received the highest accolades for her performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991, which was also ten days after the United States entered the Gulf War.

Proceeds of the recording were donated to charity. Controversies  notwithstanding, regarding questions on if Houston lip syncing and royalties to the Florida Orchestra, her performance was well received.

Whitney Houston’s performance inspired other singers such as Lady Gaga and Beyonce to sing the national anthem themselves.

With Whitney Houston’s performance associated with the Gulf War as well as the positive fan and media reaction, her rendition is still held in high regard by many.

Aretha Franklin has performed the Star Spangled Banner on numerous occasions.

In 1968, “Aretha Franklin opened the Democratic National Convention with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that gave birth to days of outrage among older, white traditionalists upset that the 26-year-old black Detroiter hadn’t stuck to what they thought the script of a national anthem performance should be.”

Aretha Franklin also gave a crowd moving  performance at the 1992 Democratic Convention.

On July 14, 1992, Franklin performed the Star Spangled Banner at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

At this convention the Democratic Party nominated then Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas for president and then Senator Al Gore from Tennessee as vice president.

Aretha Franklin performed the national anthem at the Thanksgiving NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings on November 24, 2016.

While those in attendance were visibly moved by her performance, others in the media and online ridiculed the length of her performance.

In response to her critics,  ESPN’S Dan Graziano tweeted:

“Aretha Franklin is pretty far up at the top of the list of folks who can take however long they want with the national anthem.”

While not the national anthem, Aretha Franklin’s performance of the patriotic song  “My Country Tis Of Thee” deserves mention, given the historical context given the election of the 44th president, Barack H. Obama.

Aretha Franklin performed “My Country Tis Of Thee” at the inauguration of the first publicly acknowledged non-white president, Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.

The hat Aretha Franklin chose to wear also garnered much attention.

There are more Black artists who have performed the American national anthem, however the ones covered in this writing were among the most impactful known.

The Jimi Hendrix rendition is a classic and will continue to attract music lovers and scholars alike to extract meaning of the past as well as the present.

The same can be said of Marvin Gaye’s performance as well. It’s quality carries a timeless resonance that will travel throughout the generations.

While Whitney Houston’s performance on record is considered to be an excellent one, it lacks the weight of  elevated consciousness as with Jimi Hendrix’s performance and is absent of the depth of soul that exists with Marvin Gaye’s and Aretha Franklin’s performances.

Aretha Franklin, the rightly  proclaimed Queen of Soul, offers like Marvin Gaye, an alchemical demonstration of the power of sound and music in altering the very atoms in the atmosphere.

There’s is a connection between Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.

Whitney Houston’s  mother Cissy Houston sang background vocals for The Jimi Hendrix Experience on the track “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” .

Cissy Houston was a very close friend of Aretha Franklin for over 50  years and “performed the operatic soprano melody on the Aretha Franklin hit, Ain’t No Way.”

While acknowledging the musical and social impactful qualities of the aforementioned mentioned artists, there are major concerns that must be addressed.

Author Neely Fuller writes:

“If you don’t understand white supremacy/racism,

everything that you do understand will only confuse you.”

The lyrical content and social context of the Star Spangled Banner are very troubling, especially for a people who were enslaved when it was written and continued to be vexed by injustice nominal rights were earned.



“The Star-Spangled Banner” — its lyrics, its author, and the path it took to becoming the national anthem — is inextricably bound up with America’s gruesome history of racism.

“Francis Scott Key could be called the most unknown famous person in U.S. history. A look at his rarely examined life makes clear how difficult it is to separate the national anthem’s meaning from its author, and his gross hypocrisy on the meaning of freedom.

Key was born in 1779 on his wealthy family’s Maryland plantation, known as Terra Rubra. After childhood he left to study law and eventually moved to Washington, D.C., where he kept one or two slaves as servants. In 1813, the year before the British attack on Fort McHenry, Key wrote to his father to inform him that he had just purchased “an old woman and a little girl about 12 or 18 years old.”

For a people to gloss over the connection of the national anthem to slavery and take on the song as their own, speaks to a great internal disconnect that prevents critical thinking and  encourages spiritual immolation .

Jimi Hendrix born on the 27th of November, 1942,  after his historic performance at Woodstock which offered the most critical critique of the national anthem in his performance of it, passed away 13 months later at the age of 27.

Jimi Hendrix’s cause of death is a still a cause of debate, as many believe it was under suspicious circumstances.

Marvin Gaye like Jimi Hendrix expressed a relationship to the number 13 and 27.

Marvin Gaye performed his memorable performance of the Star Spangled Banner on the 13th of February, 1983.

Marvin Gaye would pass away 413 days, which is 13 months, from his performance of the national anthem  in 1983, on April 1, 1984.

Marvin Gaye was tragically killed by his own father, Marvin Gay, Sr.

“In 2008, Gaye’s estate earned $3.5 million (US$4,156,182 in 2019 dollars). As a result, Gaye took 13th place in “Top-Earning Dead Celebrities” in Forbes magazine.”

The numerology of the date Marvin Gaye transitioned equals 27:

April 1, 1984 = 4+1+1+9+8+4=27!

Whitney Houston also expressed a connection to the number 27 in her performance of the national anthem.

Houston was 27 years old, when she performed the  Star Spangled Banner on January 27, 1991.

Whitney Houston, twenty-one years later would also pass away under a cloud of suspicion, despite having an official cause of death as “accidental drowning”.

“Less than 24 hours before the 2012 Grammy Awards, legendary pop/R&B singer Whitney Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hilton hotel room at age 48.”

Whitney Houston would pass away 21 years after performing the national anthem, whose official title is “THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER” , which has 21 letters!

The 2012 Grammy Awards was the 54th such event held.

The number 54 is significant for it is the two-fold expression of the number 27, for 27+27=54 and 27 × 2=54.

The number 54 appears with Jimi Hendrix as well.

The numerology of Jimi Hendrix’s birthdate is as follows:

November 27, 1942=



Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, which equals the following:


Aretha Franklin performed at the inauguration for Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.

Franklin’s soulful performance of the Star Spangled Banner at the 2016 NFL Thanksgiving game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings has a numerology of 44.

The game took place on November 24, 2016 which equals the following:


Jimi Hendrix passed away on September 18, 1970, which has the following numerological value:


Whitney Houston’s connection to the number 44 would be through her mother’s son, her half-brother, Gary Garland.

Gary Garland was born on October 12, 1957, which equals 10+12+1+9+5+7=44!

The three metaphysical signatures shared by those aforementioned artists are  27, 54 and 44.

The word “RITUAL” equals 27 when using the Full Reduction cipher of numerology:










The number 54 pertains to another American tradition, which is the game of baseball.

Baseball is often referred to as the “national pastime”.

In baseball, in each inning, there are 3 outs per team, which would make the total outs per inning, 6. 6 outs x 9 innings=54 outs.

Each team has 27 outs.

An out in baseball means the batter can’t advance or score.

To have 54 outs in a baseball usually means the game is over.

The number 44 refers to “The Master Healer” as well as the word “Blood” in Hebrew.

The implications of the performance of the national anthem by Black artists, goes beyond their ability to inject “soul” in their rendition of the”Star Spangled Banner”.

The involvement in this patriotic ritual as referenced by the number 27, has its consequences which will take its toll, one way or another.




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