I got the following video from Prometheus6. I’ve seen this over a dozen of times–was watching on television when it first aired, and remember celebrating the 1990 Detroit Pistons Championship to it (when CBS had the NBA contract they would play it at the end of every season).

The American National Anthem when you listen to the words, is nationalistic…of course. But it is also incredibly martial, particularly in comparison to something like the Negro National Anthem. But its warlike aspects have not only been bled out by Gaye here, they’ve been replaced with something far more lasting and glorious–the groove. Unless you’re a diehard traditionalist, you can’t help but be swept up in this. When I heard this the first time I think it was some years before I’d read The OmniAmerican and began to think of “American” and “me” in the same sentence. The American National Anthem was something I sat down through. It never moved me a bit. But Gaye’s performance transformed the song, and me.

When we’re at our best, this is what we do. We take an extant mode of living, we stylize it, build upon it, and in so doing, change the world.