Mary J. Blige sparking controversy as Derby National Anthem singer


by Michelle Arnold

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 26 at 6:22 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Nine-time Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, but not everybody is excited about it.

Churchill Downs made the announcement Monday and since then, WHAS 11 has received dozens of calls and emails to the Rant line.

Many say “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not a pop song or a jazz riff, but some of the most well known renditions come from singers with similar styles to Blige.

WHAS11's Michelle Arnold asked just how is the National Anthem supposed to be sung?

“With the correct words and everything I don't see what's wrong with putting their own little spin on it I guess,” said Jen Johnson.

“I would have a problem if she added her words but I don't have a problem with her adding her own style,” said Greg Simms.

For a preview, we found Mary J. Blige's latest National Anthem performance at the NBA All-Star game this year.

Most people told us keep the words; mix the style up if you want.

But could race be a reason for these opinions as well?

“I don't think the majority of folks feel like that who would have a problem. I think it probably be more wanting to make sure she sings it traditionally,” said Kevin Wigginton.

Owner of Big City Styles Julius Wilkerson thinks that race could be the deeper issue.

“If we continue to keep things the way that they are and don't address the true issues and the true problems, then we are going to destroy ourselves here in this city,” said Wilkerson.

Director of Communications and Media Services at Churchill Downs says the complaints have been far and few between.

“We've hosted the Derby for 137 years, we're quick to find out that you can't please everybody all the time but Mary J. Blige is a very exciting and talented individual that we can't wait to host on Derby day,” said Rogers.

Mary J. Blige will sing the National Anthem at approximately 5:10 p.m. before the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.