Remembering Whitney Houston's 'Star Spangled Banner' at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa
When the news came Saturday that Whitney Houston had been found dead at age 48, it was impossible not to reflect on her stirring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV on Jan. 27, 1991, at Tampa Stadium in Tampa.
Coming less than two weeks into Operation Desert Storm, the game itself was fraught with emotion, yet Houston's powerful pipes brought the house down with one of the most famous versions of the song of all time. Sure, it may have been pre-recorded with the help of the Florida Orchestra, but that ultimately didn't matter.
How influential was Whitney Houston's National Anthem? Well, it has its own 6,300-word Wikipedia entry, for one thing. A single of the rendition became a top-seller, reaching No. 20 on the Billboard charts, and was even re-released after 9/11. (In both instances, the Florida Orchestra sought royalty payments from Arista Records, receiving more than $100,000 each time.) It pushed an already legendary singer into all-time icon status, and it is now the standard by which all other National Anthems are judged. (Marvin Gaye's unconventional 1983 rendition rightfully has its supporters, but it's increasingly rare for performers to try to put their on spin on the song, as Gaye did. Blowing the house down, a la Whitney, is now the way to go.)
On the day after the game in 1991, longtime Times sports columnist Hubert Mizell called it "the Super Bowl's most meaningful national anthem ever. There is no missile, ours or theirs, that is bigger than the lump I felt in my throat."
Super Bowl XXV marked Houston's final performance in Tampa Bay. She never toured here again. But Houston and the city will always be connected by that night in January 1991.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*