Whitney Houston performed the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. It’s considered one of the greatest performances of the anthem ever. Recently, homemade footage capturing some folks’ real-time reactions to the performance has emerged. Let’s take a look and learn why it’s all so important.
The 1991 Super Bowl
The United States was feeling especially patriotic as the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants prepared for Super Bowl XXV. Operation Desert Storm began 10 days before kickoff, causing rumors that the game would be delayed. The NFL decided to proceed as scheduled.
The Gulf War overshadowed much of the event. Pepsi and Coca-Cola pulled some planned contests over fears it could overwhelm American telephone communications. ABC chose not to air the New Kids On The Block halftime show live in favor of a news update courtesy of Peter Jennings. It’s almost unthinkable now that the halftime show could be preempted by anything, but there were far more important things to worry about.
Whitney Houston Takes The Field
Before kick-off, Houston arrived on the field at Tampa Stadium clad in a red, white, and blue jumper. Backed by the Florida Orchestra, she belted out the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The rendition has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Houston’s voice mixed with the patriotic fervor made for an instantly legendary moment.
Emphasis on the word instantly there. Home video recorded during the 1991 performance has come to light of a family gawking at the sight on screen. It’s a great video of a great moment.
It’s nothing short of remarkable that this footage has even survived. America’s Funniest Home Videos began its weekly run in 1990, so the concept of home movies was still in its infancy. It’s not like today where every second of every day is recorded somewhere—yet somehow, this video still exists.
Unbeknownst to members of the live audience, they weren’t hearing Houston’s live performance. She was singing into the microphone, but it was turned off. Instead, an earlier recording was played. That’s right, Houston was lip-syncing. Her crew thought her voice could be drowned out by the rowdy crowd and jets.
The Houston version of “Star-Spangled Banner” was soon released as a charity single with benefits going to families of soldiers involved in the Gulf War. It peaked at number 20 on the Hot 100, making Houston one of the only artists ever to chart with the national anthem. The single was re-released after 9/11, and it’s gone down as one of the greatest musical moments in Super Bowl history.