At this point, I don’t pay too much attention to The National Anthem being sung at the Super Bowl or any sporting event. What should be a solemn and spiritually uplifting moment of respect for the greatest country in the world, has become a politicized one where cameramen are looking for someone choosing to push his/her agenda. However, a country artist, Chris Stapleton was slated to perform Fracis Scott Key’s masterpiece, so I was in. And boy, am I glad for that decision.
It’s a tricky thing singing this. Most of the time if brings nothing but venom and criticism. Especially, when you do what Chris did. Although pretty straight forward, there was kind of soulful, bluesy thing working here. Choosing to interpret The Anthem, even in a slightest way is usually a path to social media stoning, but not last night. This was a “wow” moment that made the game memorable even before it began. Chris Stapleton will always be remembered for this moment. And his version now takes its rightful place in my top three sporting event National Anthem performances ever. Where? That’s for you to decide. Here are the other two.
MARVIN GAYE AT THE NBA ALL-STAR GAME 1983
The game was held in Los Angeles and one of the most soulful singers the world has ever known, Marvin Gaye took to center court and delivered an interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner that had a cool factor to it. I’m sure others had tried to interpret the song before at an event, but I surely didn’t remember them. This was a “moment” for sure. Unfortunately, it was to be one of his last in the public eye as he soon after passed away from a gunshot wound.
WHITNEY HOUSTON SUPER BOWL 1991
Our country was just ten days into Gulf War 1. It was the first official conflict our nation’s armed forces had been engaged in since Vietnam. We were at war. And this performance completely united a country. I was in college and if you can imagine anything making a room full of frat guys cry, chances are a woman singing The National Anthem isn’t what pops into your mind. That’s what happened though. And although not an “interpretation” like Marvin Gaye’s or Chris Stapleton’s, to me it remains the gold standard. Whitney’s no longer with us. This moment is near the top of a huge list of career highlight performances.
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