29 Years Ago: Garth Brooks Sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXVII
Twenty-nine years ago today (Jan. 31, 1993), Garth Brooks took his turn at one of the most coveted performance slots of all time: singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. But 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, fans filling the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif., as well as the 91 million people watching from home, were unaware of how close the Oklahoma native came to not taking the stage.
Brooks had filmed a video for his song “We Shall Be Free,” which was written in response to the Rodney King riots that had occurred in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1992. The singer hoped to debut the video — which includes clips of the Ku Klux Klan, cross and flag burnings, war scenes, riots and natural disasters, as well as several celebrity cameos — during the Super Bowl. NBC executives refused the request, saying that the images were too disturbing.
Brooks had denied a request from the network to pre-record his National Anthem performance, so when he realized that they were not going to air the emotional “We Shall Be Free” video, he left the stadium 45 minutes before kickoff. Jon Bon Jovi, who was attending the game, was immediately brought in as a backup while the producers and Brooks argued. Ultimately, the country music superstar won, and for the first time in NFL history, the beginning of the game was delayed to show the music video. Actress Marlee Matlin joined Brooks to perform the National Anthem in American Sign Language.
While Brooks got his way, the NFL learned its lesson and since then has made it a requirement that all performers pre-record their singing.
“That’s the right way to do it,” former Super Bowl music director Ricky Minor 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.”
Brooks wasn’t the only country musical guest for Super Bowl XXVII. Tanya Tucker performed at the pre-game show, as did Glenn Frey and a Stevie Nicks-less version of Fleetwood Mac. Michael Jackson, meanwhile, took over the halftime event.
Other country artists who have sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events of the year, include Charley Pride, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Jewel, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan. On Feb. 7, Eric Church will join with Jazmine Sullivan for the National Anthem at Super Bowl LV.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
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