Remember When: Whitney Houston Nailed the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV

In 1991, Whitney Houston was 27 and at the height of her career. It was a year before her breakthrough role in The Bodyguard, featuring her mega-hit cover of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You.” A year earlier, Houston also released her third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight, which went to No. 1 on the R&B chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

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At the time, the U.S. had just entered the Persian Gulf War, and there was a sense of deep patriotism within the country when Houston performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV. She was in the spotlight on January 27, 1991, in Tampa, Florida, when she performed the national anthem for 750 million viewers worldwide.

Nation United

Houston had agreed to sing the national anthem a year earlier, prior to the start of the war, and she followed through. Dressed in a La Coq Sportif white tracksuit with a matching bandana in her hair, a sporty Houston stepped out on the field. She then belted out what many consider one of the best renditions of the national anthem ever performed.

[RELATED: 10 Iconic Moments from Whitney Houston’s Career]

“We were a nation on edge, even on a night when football is our escape,” said ABC anchor David Muir on the 30th anniversary of Houston’s performance in 2021. “And one voice united us all.” 


A week before the game, Houston recorded a pre-record, which was required in the event the singer became ill. Arranged by conductor John Clayton, the prerecorded track was still used as the audio during the broadcast.

Though Houston was singing live, it was into a dead microphone so her performance would ring out clearly above outside interference of noise coming from overhead aircraft, pre-game activities, the crowd, and other distractions within the stadium.

[RELATED: Behind the Song Lyrics of “Star Spangled Banner”]


Several years prior to her 1991 performance, Houston also sang the national anthem during basketball player Kareem Abdul Jamar’s retirement in 1988. Houston would continue to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at several other events, following the Super Bowl, including a Welcome Home Heroes special on HBO, recorded in March 1991.

Following the September 11 attacks, Houston’s recorded version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was rereleased with a share of her royalties going to victims and firefighters. The song went to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Houston the first artist in history to take the national anthem into the Top 10 of the charts.


“If you were there, you could feel the intensity,” said Houston in an interview on the accompanying DVD for her 2000 album, Whitney: The Greatest Hits, which also included her iconic Super Bowl performance. “It was an intense time for a country. A lot of our daughters and sons were overseas fighting. In the stadium, I could see the fear, the hope, the intensity, the prayers going up, you know, and I just felt like ‘This is the moment.'”

Houston continued, “And it was hope, we needed hope, you know, to bring our babies home and that’s what it was about for me. That’s what I felt when I sang that song, and the overwhelming love coming out of the stands was incredible.”

Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

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