Jimi Hendrix plays The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock (1969)

Hendrix at Woodstock

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor and Hendrix Scholar Joel Brattin wrote in 2009 about what he thinks made Jimi’s Woodstock appearance one of the most “unique moments” in the career of the legendary guitarist:


“The Star Spangled Banner” was not played on its own. It was part of a part of a medley lasting over half an hour, one of the longest such medleys. The medley also included hits like “Voodoo Child” (slight return) and “Purple Haze,” and an unaccompanied improvisation lasting nearly five minutes. Hendrix performed the national anthem as a solo in this midst of this medley.

It was not the first time Hendrix had performed the “Star Spangled Banner” — by a long shot. In fact, there are nearly 50 live recordings of Hendrix playing the national anthem, 28 made before Woodstock. They range from about a minute to more than six minutes; the Woodstock version was three minutes and 46 seconds. It was among the best, Brattin says. “And, certainly, no other version is so iconic.”

>> Concert review: Jimi Hendrix is an experience, all right (1968)


See how it was live at Woodstock

See Jimi Hendrix play “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock on August 18, 1969:

Hendrix later on the experience

On September 9, 1969, Jimi Hendrix appeared on The Dick Cavett Show for an interview, and they discussed how he performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock.

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After Cavett called it “unorthodox,” and suggested there might be a bit of a backlash, Hendrix replies, “It’s not unorthodox — no, no. I thought it was beautiful.” Cue applause.

But this story doesn’t really have a happy ending. Just over a year later, on September 18, 1970, Hendrix would be dead — leaving behind an unforgettable, inspirational musical legacy.

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