3 of the Most Memorable National Anthem Performances at the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby isn’t just about watching horses thunder down a track, though it certainly is the most fun aspect of it. It’s also about a good ol’ American tradition, aesthetic elegance, and celebration. And the most invigorating way to celebrate the Kentucky Derby has historically been through a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Let’s look at some legendary performances of the National Anthem at the Kentucky Derby.

Videos by American Songwriter

1. Lady A (2016)

You’d think the pouring rain would discourage beloved country group Lady A from performing at the Kentucky Derby, but the band had other ideas. They delivered an incredible rendition of the National Anthem as a trio, and their ability to harmonize perfectly despite the intense weather was beautiful to see. Stunning trio performances like this are very rare to see nowadays!

2. Martina McBride (2013)

The vocal prowess of Grammy Award-winning country singer Martina McBride was in full center for this performance of the National Anthem. Though it wasn’t quite as rainy as Lady Antebellum’s performance, the light trickle of rain added a haunting ambiance to her solo performance. You can see the emotion on the Derby’s audience as they listen in, hands and hats on their hearts. A truly spectacular and low-key performance!

[Get Tickets to See Martina McBride on the Festival Circuit in 2024]

3. Mary J. Blige (2012)

R&B singer Mary J. Blige put on a stunning performance at the 2012 Kentucky Derby, and her outfit was also the subject of some buzz. Looking spectacular as always in her Derby-appropriate gown and gloves, award-winning Blige performed a much more dry set this year. Slow, passionate, and with incredible delivery, Blige sang a soul-packed rendition of the National Anthem to a crowd of 150,000 cheering Derbygoers.

Photo by Michael Hickey

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