When Whitney Houston Moved America to Tears With Her Powerful Rendition of National Anthem at 1991 Super Bowl

Whitney Houston delivered the best performance in NFL history during the 1991 Super Bowl, singing the National Anthem during the war tensions between America and the Gulf. She imbued America with patriotism through her performance.

Published on Jul 05, 2024  |  09:01 PM IST |  52.1K
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Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston walked across the turf of Tampa Bay Stadium one Sunday afternoon a few decades ago, stepped onto a modest stage the size of a card table, and established a new standard for how the American national anthem should be performed.

Whitney, at the height of her vocal abilities, sang out a stirring rendition in 1991 that is widely regarded as the gold standard. Her magnificent voice delivered the best performance, leaving everyone in tears, and it remains the highest-rated performance in NFL history.

Why Whitney Houston’s performance was so impactful

The Super Bowl XXV was held in an adverse atmosphere. The country had just entered the Persian Gulf War, and there was a strong sense of patriotism in the air when she sang, and her interpretation reflected to the fullest extent. She joined the audience as a nation, responding to the nation's spinning dread while 750 million people watched from across the world. Her actions and her voice became a great gesture.

Houston responded to the cautious, anxious atmosphere with a condensed expression of feeling, optimism, hope, and patriotism. At the height of the Persian Gulf War, the public's outcry for the superstar's stentorian interpretation of the song fit the mood of patriotism that was sweeping the country. Arista Records responded by releasing the recording as a commercial single.

The version of the song was so popular—and is now largely regarded as the best of all time—that the singer released it as a charity single to benefit soldiers and their families fighting in the 1991 conflict.

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Whitney was in a trance while singing the National Anthem

When questioned about her feelings that day, Whitney once discussed the incident while appearing on the TV program Video Soul. She said, "I stepped onto the podium, and I looked out among the people, and I saw the faces of the parents of the young men and women who were over there in the Gulf. It really did trip me up, and I had to tell myself, "Okay, this is for them." "This is going to be theirs."

She added, “It was both terror and hope. People were crying, and they were praying. It was a very beautiful and intense time for everyone.”

The song's patriotic sentiment struck a chord with the public, prompting its re-release as a single following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

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The record was released on September 26, 2001. This time, the revenues benefited the New York Firefighters 9/11 Disaster Relief Fund, and the single reached number six.

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