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Patti LaBelle's "perilous flight" through the National Anthem

by Brandy McDonnell Published: October 27, 2008

All right, dear readers, you got my attention.

I logged on here this morning and discovered that many of you were ranting about Patti LaBelle’s rendition of the National Anthem before Sunday’s Game 4 of the World Series. So, I decided to check it out and post it here, courtesy YouTube, so you can hear it for yourself.

My take: Yeah, not pretty.

The most egregious sin of her performance: She flubbed the words not once but twice. “The twilight’s last gleaming” became “the skylight’s last gleaming,” and she turned the “perilous fight” to “perilous flight.”

Would Francis Scott Key even know what a skylight was? I’m not sure those were invented yet. And embarking on a “perilous flight” instead of a “perilous fight” isn’t exactly the way of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

But I’m willing to give the Grammy-winning R&B diva the benefit of the doubt on that count. Maybe she just misspoke or got nervous performing in front of her hometown crowd in Philadelphia. I found this YouTube video of previous performance at a tennis tournament, and she nailed the lyrics in this particular instance.

However, if you look at both videos, you can see that LaBelle’s style is clearly more suited to belting “Lady Marmalade” than singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Neither of her renditions is particularly tuneful, and she tends to yowl and screech her way through the words.

Even worse, though, she tends to drastically alter the tempo of the song, particularly slowing it up at the end to give it a diva-ish big finish. That’s one of my pet peeves about National Anthem performances. I don’t mind performers putting their own individual stamp on the “Banner,” since this is America, after all, and we’re supposed to rejoice in or at least respect our differences. I’ve championed in the past few weeks Stillwater guitarist Nick Gibson’s instrumental version, as well as Jimi Hendrix’s famous guitar rendition from Woodstock.

But I think performers ought to keep the tempo mostly intact, especially if they’re singing the “Banner.” It’s everyone’s anthem, and we all ought to be able to sing along when it’s performed. If you drastically change up the song’s pace, it’s tough for everyone to follow along.

Maybe the Phillies felt the need to prove themselves after LaBelle’s performance, because they hammered the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday night. Personally, I would advise against making LaBelle’s anthem their new good luck charm.

Singer-songwriter Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates, another Pennsylvania native, will perform the National Anthem tonight before Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park.


by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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