Happy (almost) fourth of July everyone.
I figured that in honor of Independence Day I would put together a little collection of National Anthem guitar renditions.
With all the sporting events going on throughout the year, it makes me wonder — why aren’t we seeing the Star Spangled Banner being played on the guitar more often?
Maybe it’s happening all the time and I’m just missing it (I don’t watch a great deal of baseball). Anyways, I wanted to compile a list of the best renditions of our National Anthem that have ever been performed on the guitar. I’m certain that there are plenty of other guitarists who have done it, but these are some of the better versions that I’ve been able to find.
If you’re looking for tabs, my advice would be to just try and figure it out on your own and add your own twist to it — that’s all these guys are doing.
1. Joe Satriani
I’m not really sure how many times Joe Satriani has played the National Anthem at a baseball game, but I think it’s probably a handful. He usually goes straight through the melody in his typical distorted guitar tone with a vocal Crybaby wah pedal sound.
He even makes an appearance in the 2011 movie Moneyball — fantastic movie by the way.
2. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix didn’t just perform the National Anthem live, but actually recorded and released a studio version of it on Rainbow Bridge. It was the first of its kind, and probably still the most popular guitar-style rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
3. Zakk Wylde
Between the Satriani and Hendrix version, Zack Wylde’s rendition is much more Hendrix-esque in its sound and feel. Wylde incorporates a lot more speed and flashy lead patterns into his version, but does so without making you feel like any of it is unnecessary.
Wylde will always be one of the best in the metal business, so it’s fitting that he gets so much shredding done while covering our National Anthem. Here’s his performance at a Denver Nuggets home game.
4. Steve Vai
As far as putting your own twist on it, Steve Vai gets my vote if I had to choose my favorite rendition, mostly because it just sounds so distinctly “Vai”, even though it’s still just the National Anthem.
The video is from the early 90s, but it’s great to see the fans and players so intrigued and entertained by Vai’s playing. A lot more interesting than simply hearing someone sing it.
5. Eric Johnson
Like Vai, Eric Johnson does a superb job of incorporating his own sound and feel. He also finds room for a lot of extra bits and pieces, that includes some soft and subtle slow downs as well as some speedy fills. It’s one of the longer guitar versions that I’ve been able to find
Again, the video is from a baseball game in the early 90s — Will Smith and Anthony Keidis make an appearence at 1:05 and 1:11 respectively. Apparently it’s a “Rock n’ Jock” softball game. I never even knew they had those.
6. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica
Ok, so this is relatively tame compared to the other versions we’ve seen, maybe even more so than Satriani’s take. But James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett get some points here for the harmonies and having two guitars. It’s not exactly a Hendrix tribute, but still a solid rendition.
Now I know there are others. I think Slash has had a few appearances, and even DJ Ashba has had a go at it, but these were the ones that I thought stood out above the rest. If I’ve missed anything or you think there’s someone else I should’ve included, leave a comment and let me know.
Otherwise, happy Fourth of July — keep on rockin’ in the free world, or at least what’s left of it.