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2001: Aerosmith frontman strikes a chord with national anthem performance

Posted at 5:29 AM, May 04, 2023

SPEEDWAY — Most Hoosiers know the Indianapolis 500 is steeped in tradition. The bricks, the milk, the music.

But Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler broke tradition drawing the ire of many race fans with his performance of the national anthem on May 27, 2001.

Tyler began his performance on the harmonica and ended it on a literal high note. Additionally, Tyler replaced “home of the brave” with “Indianapolis 500.”

Reaction was swift.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway began fielding complaints at the conclusion of Tyler’s performance.

“Certainly, we respect the opinions of all who give them,” Fred Nation, spokesperson for IMS said. “In the end, Mr. Tyler is his own artistic self.”

Track owner Tony George also weighed in on the controversy releasing the following statement:

Steven Tyler's rendition of the national anthem at this year's Indianapolis 500 has provoked controversy. While we are certainly sorry that some were offended, it was neither our intention nor that of Mr. Tyler to be disrespectful. All of us have the utmost respect for the sacrifice our veterans have made for us."

Tyler will return to Indianapolis later this year as part of Aerosmith’s farewell tour titled “Peace Out.” The 40-date run of shows will make a stop at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on October 29.

Tickets go on sale Friday, May 5, at 10 a.m. Prices range from $59.95 up to $499.95 with eight price tiers in-between according to Ticketmaster.