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“This Is America”: Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner Journey as Psychedelic Citizenship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2014


Jimi Hendrix's 18 August 1969 performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair has been characterized as an expression of transcendent political resistance as well as crude anti-U.S. drivel. Drawing on Hendrix's own archive of recordings, writings, interviews, stage banter, and especially live performances, this article analyzes Hendrix's artistic engagement with the United States national anthem by locating his Woodstock Banner as a central moment in a two-year fascination with the song, brought to a close only by Hendrix's untimely death. It presents the anthem as an artistic vehicle for Hendrix's political musings, a thoughtful engagement with current events, and as commentary responsive to Hendrix's immediate environment and expressive of his aspirations for the nation of his birth. Insights offered here include the roots of Hendrix's Banner performances as ornaments to the Civil War eulogy “Taps,” the plural construction of the Hendrix Banner and an account of the aesthetic development of his anthem arrangement, the value of his recorded stage banter for understanding Hendrix's Banner politics, the impact of the film Woodstock on Hendrix's renditions, and the use of the Banner during Hendrix's final 1970 “The Cry of Love Tour” as part of a closing anti-war set and call to action for the psychedelic citizen.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for American Music 2014 

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