Whitney Houston — “The Star-Spangled Banner”
(from Whitney – The Greatest Hits) —
Two hundred years ago today — September 14, 1814 — while temporarily imprisoned on a British warship in the Chesapeake Bay as Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was under siege, a Maryland lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key, inspired by the sight of the American flag still waving in the wind after a brutal night of battle, penned the words that became our National Anthem. And on a crisp January night in 1991, just before the commencement of the twenty-fifth Super Bowl and just ten days into the first of what would become a series of Mideast military skirmishes (this one a battle against Iraq for Kuwait’s sanctity in the Persian Gulf), the wondrously glorious Whitney Houston cemented her reputation as the greatest voice of her generation with a thrilling, thunderous performance of those very words. You don’t have to be particularly patriotic to appreciate the brilliance of the contents of the grainy video below, but as a way to mark such a significant milestone — especially given that we as a nation seem once again to be inevitably marching to war in a hostile land whose methods and mores we are never going to alter in any meaningful way, whether we foist one bomb upon them or one hundred — it bears noting that nobody has ever (or, likely, will ever) sung our song’s lyrics with more passion, more purpose, and more grace. Happy 200th birthday to The Star-Spangled Banner.