‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston sings "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Super Bowl.

Whitney Houston sings “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl.

What’s the best Super Bowl halftime performance ever? It’s hard to say; everyone’s got their own favorites.

But what’s the greatest “Star Spangled Banner”? There’s much more of a consensus there.

The setting was Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, soon after the start of the Gulf War in 1991. Whitney Houston was called on to sing the national anthem, with backing by the Florida Orchestra (conducted by Jahja Ling). She was 27 years old, still at the peak of her popularity and her power as a vocalist, and if she was even the slightest bit nervous, she sure didn’t show it.

Her version was so powerful, and so in tune with the patriotic mood of the time, that the song was released as a single, and made it into the Top 20. It was also included on Houston’s 2000 anthology, The Greatest Hits, and was re-released as a single after 9/11.

Most Super Bowl performances of the national anthem are forgotten by halftime. Houston’s is probably the only one most people still remember, decades later.

And by the way, the Giants beat the Bills, 20-19.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

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