Musical Rhetoric in Jimi Hendrix's Versions of the Star-Spangled Banner

Nicole Biamonte, McGill University

Jimi Hendrix's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969 has been received as an event of seminal countercultural significance, but less attention has been paid to its specifically musical significance. Hendrix's incorporation of quotation, distortion, feedback, and other musical effects superimpose an improvised layer of anti-war rhetoric and ironic commentary onto the melody. This paper compares the Woodstock version to numerous other studio and live renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner by Hendrix, demonstrating that the iconic status of the Woodstock performance is due not only to its wide dissemination but also to the unique clarity and saturation of its musical rhetoric.