The Star-Spangled Banner— A Musical Event

From high school competitions to the Super Bowl, the national anthem has always been performed/played before sporting matches for as long as I could remember. So, that begged the question— when did it start and why? 


Setting: Series Game 1 Sept 5, 1918, in Chicago between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox.

 It has been a year since the United States became involved in WW1. Drafts were continuing and over 100,000 soldiers had died. 

Late in the game, the US NAVY band began to play Star Spangled Banner. This prompted some of the players to salute while others put their hands over their hearts. It is also said that the crowd began to sing alongside the band. This was the birth of the “moment” this song would occupy in sports going forward.


Of course, after Game 1, the song would then be played at each of the remaining series games. 

The following season, the Star-Spangled Banner became part of all Boston home games. Going forward, the song would appear in different events in baseball.

The Star-Spangled Banner officially became the national anthem of the United States in 1931. Then the Great Depression sweeps the nation and our involvement in another world war occurs. 

Following WWII, the NFL commissioner required the national anthem be played before all games. With patriotism and unity growing, it was not long before other sports following suit and the tradition was cemented.

And the rest is history—-


Again, it is baseball leading the way.

Setting: World Series 1968-Game 5– 

Detroit Tigers v St. Louis Cardinals. 

“Best New Artist” Grammy nominated; Puerto Rican star José Feliciano performed an ACOUSTIC rendition of the national anthem. Now of course, at that time, to change the anthem was wildly out of the box. But also giving anti-war sentiments and other cultural shifts rooted in this time- it was a needed change. His performance would land him at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Now by 2024, the Star-Spangled Banner has been performed by MANY people. So, from me in high school choir to the greatest ever— Let’s look at a few notable ones.


Whitney Houston: Location: Super Bowl 25 in 1991.

The greatest to ever do it! period- Her iconic vocal performance still stops people in their tracks 30+ years later. With a chill-inducing delivery, Whitney soars into “and the rockets red glareee” (more chills) “… the bombs bursting— in airrrr”. (ah am I crying) She finishes out the last lines with power and a flourish, to a roaring crowd.

After being recorded and released, Whitney Houston’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” went on to debut at #31 and top off at #20 of the Billboard Charts—an unbelievable feat. (And highest charting of the Star-Spangled Banner in Billboard’s history. 

Top Tier Performances

Jimi Hendrix: Location: Woodstock 1969.   

 ummmm it’s WOODSTOCK— summer of 69’ it’s a time that is widely remembered in the US lexicon of time and massive events! This rockin’ rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” is solely shredded on an electric guitar. 

Chris Stapleton: Location: Super Bowl 57 in 2023.

 To strip down a song that is usually dressed up is always going to be a challenge, but man did Chris Stapleton rise to it. THE TONE!? His voice is so full of character and grit. Powerful voice delivery while also digging into the slow moments in the verse.

Jennifer Hudson Super Bowl 43 2009.

After a horrific personal tragedy, Jennifer Hudson graced the world with a return to performing on the Super Bowl 43 stage. Our hearts were moved as she gave a masterful and soulful version of “Star-Spangled Banner”. She has SUCH a full and rich voice.

2 Group Performances You May Not Know

Cactus Cuties: Location: Texas Tech Basketball in 2008.

(OKAY THIS IS FROM THE VAULT) In a viral early YouTube video that received over 10 million views, the girl group “Cactus Cuties” took the stage. The five young girls (with the youngest two sharing a mic) shocked the room with their performance. 

HONORABBLE MENTIONS (because they really ate here)

Luther Vandross Super Bowl 31 in 1997

Mariah Carey Super Bowl 36 in 2002

Beyoncé Super Bowl 38 in 2004

Jordan Sparks Super Bowl 42 in 2008

Big Time Rush (BTR): Location: Thanksgiving Day Game in 2011 Cowboys v Dolphins.

WOW— if you thought they were just a Nickelodeon boyband… wrong answer. Big Time Rush gave us harmonies on harmonies. Vocally all four guys shined and showed vocal ability they had not before. 

Lady Gaga Super Bowl 50 in 2016

Aretha Franklin Thanksgiving Day Game 2016 Lions v Vikings 

OOOOOF (dishonorable mentions)

Fergie NBA All Star Game in 2018.

Truly iconic, inspired a slew of memes, tv spoofs, and even a lyrical book. 

Rosanne Barr MLB Padres v Reds in 1990.

She was quite literally honking the song. Not sure why they asked and equally unsure as to what was expected. 


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