Performing our country’s National Anthem on a giant stage is no easy feat.
Plenty of people have crashed and burned trying to belt out the Star-Spangled Banner, with flubbed lyrics, missed cues and overindulgence being the most typical problems in recent performances.
But when everything goes smoothly, there is no better tribute to our country and its exceptionalism than a flawless rendition of Francis Scott Key’s 1814 classic.
So, with Independence Day around the corner, here’s a look at five of the most inspirational performances of the National Anthem in recent history:
5. Jennifer Hudson
Academy Award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson took the stage at Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 just a few short months after her mother, brother, and nephew were gunned down in Chicago. With a heavy heart, Hudson left it all on the table as she belted out a soulful but relatively straightforward take on the Anthem.
4. Marvin Gaye
Gaye delivered a stirring performance of the Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, accompanied by a drum machine. The soul music icon had battled hardship through the years but was in the process of making a comeback when he took the mic at The Forum in Inglewood, California and brought the house down. Sadly, Gaye continued to struggle with substance abuse and was tragically murdered the following year.
3. Dixie Chicks
Talent is talent. It was just one month before Natalie Maines’ infamous outburst against President Bush when the Dixie Chicks took the field at Super Bowl XXXVII to perform a three-part harmonized version of the Anthem. The singers didn’t overdo it, as is common when performing with a group; instead, they kept the performance low-key but with just enough flair to make for a subtly beautiful rendition. Of course, this happened one month later, and suddenly no one wanted to hear the Dixie Chicks sing patriotic songs anymore.
2. U.S. Military Chorus
Members of the U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, West Point Military Academy and the Coast Guard Academy performed the Anthem ahead of Super Bowl XXXIX in 2006, accompanied by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpet Corps. This performance is the ultimate tribute to America – no frills, just pure, straight-ahead beauty from the men and women who work tirelessly to protect our country. If it weren’t for the mythic nature of #1’s performance, this would be the greatest rendition of the Anthem in history.
1. Whitney Houston
While some controversy remains over whether Houston’s performance was lip-synched, her rendition of the National Anthem ahead of 1991’s Super Bowl XXV came just days after the country became immersed in the Persian Gulf War. Houston’s version of the Anthem eventually went gold when it was released as a single, and it was re-released after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Proceeds from the single went to support the troops in the Gulf. As a musical performance and as a statement, Houston’s rendition of the National Anthem is, simply, the best.