Jose Feliciano’s Star-Spangled Controversy


Jose Feliciano

On October 7, 1968, twenty-three-year-old singer Jose Feliciano and his guide dog walked onto the field at Tiger Stadium and sang the national anthem before Game Five of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. Ninety-eight seconds later, he had unwittingly ignited a national controversy, derailed his career, and set in motion a series of events that would lead him to find the love of his life.

Jose had nothing but good intentions that day. He wanted to sing an anthem of gratitude to a country that had given him the opportunity to follow his dreams. Years later, here is Jose’s own account of what happened that day.

For good measure, here is an audio clip of legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell’s behind-the-scenes recollection of that historic day from Ernie Harwell’s Audio Scrapbook, a four-CD treasure trove of Ernie’s highlights and interviews. Click on the audio player below to listen to this clip, which includes Jose’s entire performance of the national anthem at Tiger Stadium.

Jose Feliciano singing the national anthem before Game Five of the 1968 World Series

Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game

Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game

Ironically, Ernie Harwell had invited Motown star Marvin Gaye to sing the anthem before Game Four the day before. Nervous about Gaye’s soulful style, Harwell’s superiors had instructed him to ask Gaye to sing a straightforward rendition. Gaye readily complied. Fourteen years after Feliciano’s game-changing performance, Gaye also shocked the world with a soulful, electrifying rendition of the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game on February 13, 1983. Click here to watch it.

So how did Jose meet Susan, the love of his life? After hearing Jose’s performance of the national anthem, fourteen-year-old Susan became one of his most passionate fans. She enlisted Harwell’s help to contact Jose’s manager to ask if she could start a fan club. When Susan finally met Jose three years later, they fell in love and are married to this day. Here’s a three-part video interview with Jose and Susan about how they met and their life together today with their three children.

(PART 1 OF 3)

(PART 2 OF 3)

(PART 3 OF 3)

Click here to view all my baseball-related posts.

Click here to view all my posts featuring inspired performances of the Star-Spangled Banner.


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