This is the sound of a nation breaking at the seams.

Hendrix's performance of the national anthem at Woodstock hit like a shock wave; with its distortion and chaos, it sounded like a rupture in something sacred. Two music scholars and two rock guitarists put together the pieces. "It's like the zeitgeist had vomited up this thing," says musician Vernon Reid. Using a whammy bar and a fuzz box, Hendrix captured the sound of bombs falling overseas and screaming protestors. "I didn't think it was unorthodox," Hendrix said. "I thought it was beautiful."

"Jimi Hendrix's 'Star-Spangled Banner'" was produced by David Krasnow, with assistance from Stephen Reader, and edited by Emily Botein.

Bonus Track: Vernon Reid's "Star-Spangled Banner"
Vernon Reid founded the rock band Living Colour and won two Grammy awards for his guitar with with the group. In this bonus track, he plays his version of the national anthem, just for Studio 360.


Bonus Track: Tara Key's "Star-Spangled Banner"
Tara Key, guitarist for the band Antietam, performs her own version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" for Studio 360.

Tara Key's "Star-Spangled Banner," The Music Video
Tara Key had a very specific nightly ritual as a baby. She says she wouldn't let her mother sleep until they sat together in front of the television, rocking back and forth as it showed the American flag and played the "Star-Spangled Banner." This music video is her tribute to analog TV's old sign-off protocol.

  • Jimi Hendrix sound checking for his landmark 1969 performance at the Woodstock Festival. Historian Michael William Doyle says that to some, Hendrix’s take on the “Star-Spangled Banner” was “a rupture in something considered sacred.”

    Credit:

    Courtesy of the Experience Music Project

  • Hendrix at a Woodstock rehearsal.

    Credit:

    Courtesy of the Experience Music Project

  • Tara Key, guitarist for the band Antietam, says Hendrix knew how to push the buttons and hold the pressure points of the “Star-Spangled Banner” to draw out meaning and emotion.

    Credit:

    Dawn Setter Madell

  • Vernon Reid performing in Rome in 2010.  Reid says Hendrix’s performance was influential because he was able to use his guitar as “a conduit for a million other sounds.”

    Credit:

    Pino Fama

Related Stories