Remember When Garth Brooks Almost Didn’t Perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl?
Garth Brooks reportedly nearly walked out on performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1993 — and re-defined the rules for Super Bowl performers in the process.
Brooks is not the only country star to have been picked to sing the anthem — Charley Pride, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have all done the honors over the years. But his reported last-minute boycott of the show resulted in a policy change that has become a part of the institution.
According to former NFL Executive Director Don Weiss’ book, The Making of the Super Bowl: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Sporting Event, Brooks hoped to debut his video for "We Shall Be Free" during the broadcast on Jan. 31, 1993. Written in response to the L.A. riots following the Rodney King verdict in 1992, the video for the song featured footage of the KKK, riots, wars and cross and flag burnings. When the network deemed the clip too controversial, Brooks reportedly left the stadium with just 45 minutes to kickoff.
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Brooks had denied the network's request to pre-record his performance, leaving producers scrambling for a last-minute replacement. Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance at the game, and producers had him on standby as they argued with Brooks. Ultimately Brooks won, and the biggest sports event in America was delayed for the first time in its history to show Brooks' video. Sporting a Cyrus-worthy mullet and full mustache and beard, Brooks then took to the field to perform, accompanied by a sign language interpretation from Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is hearing impaired.
While Brooks ended up performing live, since his walkout the NFL has made it a requirement that all Super Bowl renditions of the anthem are pre-recorded, according to former Super Bowl Music Director Ricky Minor.
“That’s the right way to do it,” he says. “There’s too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live, because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance.”
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