Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight are just a few of the iconic artists who have taken to the gridiron to sing the national the anthem at the Super Bowl.
R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan will perform the national anthem this year along with singer Eric Church, adding their names to the lexicon of Black performers who sung the song on one entertainment’s largest platforms.
Sullivan emerged on the scene in 2008 with her album “Fearless” which featured several hit singles including “Bust Your Windows,” “Need You Bad,” and “Lions, Tigers & Bears.” She followed up her debut album with “Love Me Back,” in 2010, and “Reality Show” after a five-year hiatus in 2015.
Sullivan recently released the EP “Heaux Tales,” providing insight into Black women’s stories of vulnerability, confidence and sexuality. The 12 time Grammy nominated singer said she feels empowered to sing the national anthem at this time in our country.
“I just feel like it’s all God’s timing because they picked the Blackest, most soulful artist they could find to do this with Eric Church,” she recently told Glamour. “He’s a country singer, and we are the total opposites of each other. But I’m representing for my people, our lives, our struggles, and everything we’ve been through. I can’t even explain it. I’m completely honored. I’m just gon’ go and sang.”
After Whitney Houston’s soul stirring performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in 1991, which is still heralded as one of the greatest performances of all time, Black artists have made more frequent appearances on the Super Bowl stage. Her power, restraint and delivery, turned the moment into an almost spiritual experience, likening her rendition to a gospel song. Prior to Houston’s appearance at the Super Bowl, Black artists singing the national anthem were few and far between.
Since 1967, which marked the first Super Bowl, a total of 15 Black artists have been asked to sing the national anthem. The first was singer-athlete Charley Pride, who was the first to perform the song as a solo act.
However, with all of its pomp and circumstance, Black artists have performed the traditional song with soul and valor, under the backdrop of a country that has systematically oppressed descendants of chattel slavery.
After the silent protest of the national anthem spearheaded by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016, the song carries with it the reminder of dreams deferred and promises broken for millions of American Black people in America.
Black performers continue to make their mark on the culture by furthering the legacy of Houston’s rendition, infusing the legacy of soul music, while also invoking energy and emotion towards making a change.
1. Charley Pride, 1974Source:Getty
Charley Pride became the first solo act to perform the national anthem at Super Bowl VIII in Houston’s Rice Stadium.
2. Diana Ross, 1982Source:Getty
Diana Ross sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl XVI in Detroit’s Silverdome Stadium.
3. Wynton Marsalis, 1986Source:Getty
At Super Bowl XX, Wynton Marsalis performed the national anthem in his hometown at the Superdome in New Orleans.
4. Aaron Neville, 1990Source:Getty
Neville sang the national anthem in 1990 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
5. Whitney Houston, 1991Source:Getty
Houston’s memorizing performance of the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium is heralded as one of the greatest performances of all time.
6. Natalie Cole, 1994Source:Getty
Singer Natalie Cole performs the National Anthem to kick off the 1994 Atlanta, Georgia, Super Bowl XXVII football game at the Georgia Dome.
7. Luther Vandross, 1997Source:Getty
Luther Vandross sings the US National Anthem at the Louisiana Superdome 26 January before the start of Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, Louisiana.
8. Mariah Carey, 2002Source:Getty
Mariah Carey performed the national anthem at Bowl XXXVI at the Superdome in 2002.
9. Beyoncé, 2004Source:Getty
Beyoncé sings the National Anthem to kick off Super Bowl XXXVIII in her hometown of Houston, Texas.
10. Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville, 2006Source:Getty
Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville sing the American national Anthem prior to Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
11. Jordin Sparks, 2008Source:Getty
Jordan Sparks sings the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl XLII between the New York Giants and New England Patriots on February 3, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
12. Jennifer Hudson, 2009Source:Getty
Singer Jennifer Hudson performs the national anthem during the pre-game show prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
13. Alicia Keys, 2013Source:Getty
Musician Alicia Keys performs the National Anthem at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
14. Gladys Knight, 2019Source:Getty
Motown legend Gladys Knight performs the national anthem prior to Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots on February 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
15. Jazmine Sullivan, 2021Source:Getty
Singer Jazmine Sullivan along with Eric Church, will perform the national anthem at Super Bowl LV in Tampa Florida on Feb. 7.
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