Adan Gallegos had sung the national anthem a hundred times before at football games, graduations and even at the 2013 burning of Zozobra before he flubbed the “Star-Spangled Banner” in front of more than 40,000 people at the torching of Old Man Gloom last Friday night
A week later, the 15-year-old New Mexico School for the Arts student is still upset about his performance.
“I don’t want anyone to be disgusted,” he said. “I didn’t do this intentionally as a joke. I want to apologize. I didn’t know how offended people would be.”
After Mayor Javier Gonzales introduced him, Gallegos launched into the patriotic song, his baritone voice soaring over the crowd. Many held their right hand over their hearts. But as he got to, “Oh, say does that … ” panic set in, he forgot the words and mumbled “blah, blah, blah,” instead.
Some in the crowd jeered. Gonzales asked Gallegos to try it again. He picked up where he had left off, and the second time around he got the words right.
In the next few days, Gallegos drew plenty of criticism online. Several commenters on The New Mexican’swebsite bashed Gallegos’ performance.
“Steve Gonzales” wrote: “Am I the only one who was disgusted last night by the insertion of ‘blah, blah, blah’ in our national anthem? The singer embarrassed himself and my hometown.” Others echoed those sentiments.
Fidgeting with his ring, Gonzales apologized repeatedly Thursday.
He said he had been working since 4:30 a.m. that day, picking up garbage, helping with the pyrotechnics and erecting signs in preparation for the event. He said time had slipped away from him, and, before he was prepared, it was time to sing.
“I was exhausted by the time I got up there,” he said. “I remember when I was singing, I blinked and it was like I woke up. It was like, ‘Wow, I am singing already.’ ”
Gallegos isn’t the first person to botch the national anthem. Vocalist Michael Bolton in 2003 and Christina Aguilera in 2011 both screwed up the words.
Ray Sandoval, the organizer of Zozobra for the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, said he also received many complaints about the fumbled rendition of the national anthem. He also said that since May, Gallegos had logged thousands of hours of volunteer labor for the Kiwanis Club.
“I think he got leveled with a lot of criticism,” Sandoval said. “It’s just unfortunate. He’s a young man who really wanted to do a good job but made a mistake.”
Sandoval said a different vocalist will sing next year’s anthem, but not because of Gallegos’ performance. He said Santa Fe has many gifted vocalists, and he would prefer to give others the chance to sing.
Gallegos’ father, also named Adan, said his son has been singing since childhood. “He always walking around the house, singing at the top of his lungs,” he said.
The elder Gallegos said he thought last year’s performance was better. But this year’s rendition was good until his son stumbled, he said.
As for the younger Gallegos, he plans to keep singing and working with the Kiwanis Club to put on Zozobra.
“I have really come to love the song,” he said. “I messed up on the song. That’s my fault. My intention was to never hurt anybody. I put out a sincere apology to all those I offended. I own up to it.”
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CQuintanaSF.