Using a live singer, instrument or even a taped recording, the national anthem is performed numerous times each day to open sporting events, special memorials and dozens of other occasions. Most times, the performance is nothing to write home about, but every so often someone screws up the song so bad that it becomes national news within moments. The very worst national anthem renditions include singers, athletes, actors and ordinary people who have flubbed the lines, put their own (unsuccessful) spin on the song or just messed up so bad that they never ever live it down.
Though many will say that the Star Spangled Banner is a difficult song to sing on a vocal level because of its wide range, an octave and a half, of notes, that certainly doesn't make any excuse for forgetting the words. Taken from the 1814 poem titled "Defence of Fort McHenry" by Francis Scott Key, the words to the American anthem have always been the same, except when they're mangled by a performer.
We all remember in 1990 when sitcom star Roseanne Barr made a joke of the Star Spangled Banner prior to a baseball game but that disastrous performance was certainly not the worst of the worst. Take for instance one Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff in Tennessee who made a somber memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers overly awkward after completely butchering the lyrics.
Many have been criticized for small errors during performances such as when the likes of Christina Aguilera and Keri Hilson missed a few words, only to recover and end the song well. Others have attempted to add their own style to the iconic song but with horrible results.
Take Steven Tyler for example. He tried to get the crowd at the 2001 Indianapolis 500 involved by adding the name of the event, plus an awkward harmonica solo, to the song. Veterans groups were far from amused and the Aerosmith crooner apologized. Same thing happened with R&B singer R. Kelly as he opened the Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor boxing match in 2005. The crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as well as the one at home was not into it, especially the part where he urged watchers to clap and dance, leading to a complete failure.
As these horrible, awful national anthem performances prove, it's better to perform the Star Spangled Banner well and not be noticed than to murder the song in front of thousands, if not millions of people. Consider yourself warned anthem singers.