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Jose Feliciano Retells The Story Of His Controversial Anthem Rendition 50 Years Later

September 10, 2018

(104.3 WOMC) - Puerto Rican guitarist and singer Jose Feliciano returned to Comerica Park in Detroit Saturday (Sept. 8) to perform The Star-Spangled Banner for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Detroit Tigers 1968 World Series championship team.

Feliciano also sat down with 104.3 WOMC and writer Bill Dow to discuss the anthem that sent out shock waves with his soulful, slowed-down interpretation. 

On October 7, 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, Feliciano was invited by legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Tiger Stadium in Detroit during Game 5 pre-game ceremonies of the 1968 World Series between the Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

His personalized, slow, Latin jazz performance proved highly controversial.

"Because of me, Ernie Harwell almost got fired," Feliciano said. "If that would have happened, I couldn't have lived with myself because I loved Ernie Harwell." 

In an October 2006 NPR broadcast, Feliciano expressed pride at opening the door for later interpretations of the national anthem.

His World Series rendition, which features him accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, was released as a single that charted for five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #50.

"To me, my guitar has always been my orchestra," Feliciano said.

That recording of the National Anthem is now on permanent exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

In 2010, Feliciano came to Comerica Park to reprise the anthem for a pregame tribute held following the death Harwell.

Watch Feliciano's interview with 104.3 WOMC below.