The Jackson 5 at the 1970 World Series

Willa:  In honor of the rollercoaster of a World Series that just ended last night, Lisha and I would like to share a clip of the Jackson 5 singing the national anthem to open the 1970 World Series. An interesting side note is that the 1970 series was the first to include a black umpire, Emmett Ashford. Six years later, the Jacksons invited Ashford to join them in a guest appearance on their television variety show, The Jacksons. Here’s the clip:

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on November 3, 2016, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for that clip, Willa and Lisha! I remember reading a funny story, long ago, about the brothers on the plane to do the anthem at the WS and scrambling to get the correct lyrics. Can’t recall the source. Love hearing MJ’s voice soar like a rocket.

    The first black umpire connection was amazing – always interesting to note that, when history was being made in his lifetime, MJ was THERE… singing near the Berlin Wall… the first artist to perform in formerly occupied countries (like Estonia)… the Superbowl halftime show… the World Series. How many black artists before the J5 were invited to sing the anthem, I wonder?

    • Hi Chris. I’ve heard that story too, but don’t know how true it is or where it originated. In fact, it was dramatized in the TV miniseries, The Jacksons: An American Dream. Here’s a clip of that scene:

      If it is true, I have to say I can sympathize! When you’re in the stands singing the national anthem with thousands of other people, you can follow along with the crowd and think you have the lyrics down cold. But when you’re standing alone without people beside you cuing you about what comes next, it’s pretty easy to scramble the words.

      I know because one of my son’s friends did that last year. She has a beautiful voice, and she’s a straight A student and always very prepared. But there was a last-minute change of plans at a volleyball playoff game last spring and they asked her if she could fill in. She said yes because she assumed she knew the words – she’d sung it in public several times, but always with a group. And she flubbed the lyrics. She was really embarrassed, but it’s easier to mess up than you might think – especially for kids.

      p.s. Like you, I “love hearing MJ’s voice soar like a rocket.” Many singers sound strained trying to hit those high notes, but Michael Jackson makes it seem effortless – like he could go even higher if he wanted. What an incredible talent.

  2. Hi Chris, Willa! Yes, it’s great to hear Michael Jackson’s voice, like a rocket!

    While I don’t know how many black artists sang the anthem at a major event before the Jackson 5, Jimi Hendrix did take it upon himself to play what I consider the definitive version of the song at Woodstock, in 1969—like a rocket. Here’s a clip:


    Jimi Hendrix – National Anthem U.S.A (Woodstock 1969)

    I especially appreciate this, as I contemplate the meanings of Colin Kaepernick’s action a couple months ago: he “took a knee” rather than stand for the anthem, which garnered a lot of pushback for him. I remember declining to stand for the pledge *or* the national anthem at school, around the same time Michael and his brothers were singing it here, for the World Series. That was DECADES ago.

    Given the history of the song, Kaepernick’s action makes all the more sense. This is worth reading:

    Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery
    Jon Schwarz

    August 28 2016, 1:08 p.m.

    http://theintercept.com/2016/08/28/colin-kaepernick-is-righter-than-you-know-the-national-anthem-is-a-celebration-of-slavery/

    • Oh my, Nina. That article about the history of the national anthem was really sobering. I don’t think I’d ever seen that third verse of the anthem before, or if I had, I didn’t know what it meant – that in the War of 1812, British strategy included supporting slaves in rising up against white Americans, so it was a war against slaves rebelling for their freedom as well as the British. And the national anthem was written to celebrate both perseverance against the British as well as suppression of slaves. That is very troubling.

      However, I question the headline that “The National Anthem is a Celebration of Slavery.” While Francis Scott Key may have written it from that mindset, its meaning has evolved, and while we need to be knowledgeable of its history, that isn’t what it means today.

      It’s kind of like those people who insist the peace symbol is an emblem of Satanism or witchcraft or a Nazi-type broken cross. From what I’ve read, it’s very unclear it ever meant that. (According to this article, for example, that “history” is a fabrication created by the John Birch society.) But even if it did symbolize a witch’s foot thousands of years ago, that’s not what it means now.

      But I’m going off on a tangent. What I mean to say is that the history of the national anthem is important to know, and I really appreciate your sharing it. Thank you, Nina.

      • Thanks, Willa. I totally understand what you mean about these symbolic objects, whose meanings have shifted over time, sometimes in really dramatic ways. I didn’t know about the peace symbol. Thanks for the information; I’ll try to find out more about it. There’s no doubt that symbols—-which include language itself—-can often elicit emotional responses in people, over and above the intentions of the people who put them into play at any point in our collective history.

        Long before this moment, when I was about 13 or 14, I wore my peace symbols defiantly, and listened admiringly as Jimi Hendrix played his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a biting commentary on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. And I never *stood for* anybody’s version of it—in all senses of that expression.

        In truth, I really don’t know what “The Star-Spangled Banner” is supposed to mean right now. You say its meaning has evolved; but into *what* exactly, I can’t venture to say—-especially given the fact that our country was founded on a basis of genocide and slavery.

        And today, when that truth is being brought home to us in all its ugliness, I find I REALLY have no idea what our national anthem is supposed to mean.

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