Bedecked in the colors of the flag, Arrowsmith’s Steven Tyler delivered a screeching, rock version of the National Anthem that disappointed many fans at the 2001 Indianapolis 500.
One person not totally disappointed was AAMB trumpeter David Hornthal who took home Tyler’s harmonica as a souvenir of the race. Playing the harmonica to start a song is a Tyler trademark, but once the rock singer was finished with his intro, he tossed the harmonica into the crowd. Although several auxiliary members desperately tried to grab the harmonica, it was Hornthal who came up with it.
Because Tyler had his own ideas about how to deliver the National Anthem, the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band played only a few brief measures of music before he began, and provided an instrumental climax after he was finished.
Normally the media doesn’t cover the National Anthem. But so many fans were upset by the textual changes in Tyler’s version, and the appropriateness of his singing style, that newspapers and television stations wrote stories about it. WTHR-TV in Indianapolis conducted a poll on their website where readers could express their views. More than 65 percent labeled it disrespectful or unforgivable, while approximately 20 percent thought it was great, another 10 percent OK, and the rest opted for the category "Roseanne Arnold’s was worse."