Putting it on the line at the Super Bowl

By Lloyd Graff

Whitney Houston’s Legendary “Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl, 1991

The over-under line on the length of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl by opera star turned pop singer, Renee Fleming, is 2 minutes 25 seconds.

It’s the Super Bowl. Everything is a hustle. Denver by two.

Earlier in the week, Pete Seeger, the wonderful American folk singer, died at 94. Could you ever imagine Pete (“If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”) singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at The Meadowlands?

Funny thing. I love the Super Bowl, with its $4 million a pop ads, and I love the old lefty guitar picker, Seeger. They are both my America, at its pure and phony best.

The Super Bowl has become our winter July 4th. It’s a pageant, a day of parties and pigging out and a celebration of the Flag and what we love about the country. It’s patriotism, bimbos, gambling and quarterbacks rolled into a piano roll of clever and terrible TV ads we forget instantly. It’s America, Baby.

The Super Bowl retains its authenticity because it is still a football game with phenomenal players who go all out to win. Quarterback Peyton Manning versus defensive back Richard Sherman, the Stanford thug. Manning, who improvises every play at the line, risks his mended vertebrae on every snap. Sherman is a bright guy who plays like a maniac.

Which brings me to Beyoncé. She has sung some nice National Anthems, but I cannot forgive her for lip-syncing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Presidential Inauguration in 2012. So what if you miss a note or flub a line like Christina Aguilera did at the Super Bowl in 2011, as long as you give your all. When you fake it as Beyoncé did, and then ask the Marine Corps Band to cover your lovely behind, that offends me.

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is a challenging song with somewhat archaic words about the War of 1812. But if you are going to take the credit and the cash Beyoncé, go for it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I marvel at Sam Cooke on his Copacabana Live album singing “If I Had a Hammer,” when he mixes up two verses and then laughs as he keeps going. At the Super Bowl, the Inauguration, the World Series there is no do over, and there are also no excuses.

I asked Noah for his opinion on the greatest National Anthem performances. He immediately said Whitney Houston, at the 1991 Super Bowl. We played it on You Tube. Fabulous. That was going ALL OUT.

Another memorable performance of patriotic music that comes to mind for me is Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” in the second game of the World Series following Sept. 11, 2001. The purity of the visual images brought to life by the remarkable blind performer always gives me chills. Jose Feliciano’s unique “Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1968 World Series also stands out for me.

Queen Latifah is doing “America the Beautiful” at The Meadowlands this Sunday. May she play it straight and sing from the heart. We deserve her real best.

Question I: What is your favorite National Anthem performance?

Question II: Denver or Seattle?

Watch Whitney Houston’s 1991 Star-Spangled Banner Performance

Watch Leslie Nielsen’s Star-Spangled Banner Performance in the Naked Gun

Share this post

12 thoughts on “Putting it on the line at the Super Bowl

  1. Bob

    Best version is done on every Blackhawks home game by Jim Cornelison, the rest of them can only hope for as good of a performance.

  2. Jim Goerges

    The best version was last night at the Pequot Lakes vs. Pelican Rapids boys High School basketball game. The dance team did some routines between the JV and Varsity game, they were very good by the way, so when it came time to start the tape, the music was stuck on dance routines! After 4 or 5 tries, one of the desk official’s, Mark Wallin, grabbed the microphone and said he would start singing and asked all the fans, faculty and students to join in, it was a marvelous sight and the sound was inspiring! JOB WELL DONE!!!

  3. Jim Goerges

    Interesting to have a blog on this and not the president’s speech which proves how ineffective of a leader he is. Or talk about comments the president made about marijuana. Maybe that is the culmination of the speech, can’t lead, can’t delegate, so I’ll lead by myself, the heck with how our nation was founded or the constitution. Maybe our president smoked so much he hasn’t got the vigor to finish the job, hmmm, any thoughts?

  4. Victor

    I am in favor of changing our national anthem from “The Star Spangled Banner” to “America the Beautiful.”

    I think both are beautiful songs, but I think “America the Beautiful” better represents the country and inspires love for her and each other.

  5. Brian Madden

    The best I ever heard was the four kids at Rock Valley College when I became a proud American citizen! There were tears in me eyes! I was humble and proud at the same time! God bless America!

  6. Matt Klecka

    Not to rain on your parade, but the anthem sung by Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl heard by stadium and TV audience was pre-recorded, though she “sang” with the recording. Still an unforgettable performance!

  7. Noah

    I love the comment, “When you fake it as Beyoncé did, and then ask the Marine Corps Band to cover your lovely behind, that offends me.”

    Beyonce truly does have a wonderful, lovely, lovely behind. She may lip-sync but you can’t take that away from her! That’s what you call ALL OUT BABY!


Comments are closed.