Singer-songwriter and overall legend Gladys Knight has been confirmed to perform the U.S. National Anthem at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will take place in Atlanta on Sunday, March 7th, according to NBA’s official website. The seven-time Grammy winner’s performance is reportedly part of a night-long tribute to HBCUs, of which Knight is a graduate (Shaw University is her alma-mater.)
Knight took to Twitter to confirm her growing excitement over the announcement:
Knight is a welcomed addition to the growing list of superstars to belt out the National Anthem at sporting events such as all-star games and the Super Bowl. In light of her coveted spot, we’ve rounded up some of the best National Anthem performances of all time.
It’s now been 30 years since Whitney Houston took the stage at Superbowl XXV in 1991 and blew us away with her classic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. The performance has widely been hailed as one of the greatest performances of all time, setting an all-new standard when it came to the rendition. After 9/11, Arista Records re-released the song in tribute, and it peaked at number #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Singer Mariah Carey sang the National Anthem in 2002 for Super Bowl XXXVI, and easily made news as being one of the greatest singers to do it. Her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner in her classic, unique voice was a welcome melody and set yet another standard for singers performing the rendition.
Vocalist and soulful singer Luther Vandross performed the anthem in 1997 at Super Bowl XXXI, and did what few could’ve done — make it sound like a beautiful R&B song. Vandross, of course, was infamous for his smooth notes and beame a highly in-demand singer with classics like “Never Too Much”, “Here and Now”, and “Dance With My Father”, among other chart-toppers.
Like Luther Vandross did years later, Marvin Gaye made the “Star Spangled Banner” sound like a track that belonged on one of his albums. The tempo of the melody and his smooth, soulful vocals turned our nation’s national anthem into a national bop, setting a new standard for artists to make the song their own whenever they performed it at a game.
The 24-time Grammy-Award winning singer took the stage to belt out the anthem at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and left fans and spectators speechless. Of course, Beyonce would famously return to the Super Bowl in 2013 with Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, and then again in 2017 alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars.
Singer and Grammy-award winner Natalie Cole stunned the crowd with a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner for Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994. The performance followed the success of her 1991 best-selling album, Unforgettable…with Love, and is considered by many as one of the best of all time.
Aretha Franklin needs no introduction: the honorary singer and pianist has performed the American anthem numerous times, including the clip which derives from a 1992 convention that aired on PBS. Fun fact: When Franklin first sang the National Anthem at the opening of the National Democratic Convention in 1968, she caused outrage amongst older, white traditionalists, but gave way to a new threshold when it came to performing.
Powerhouse singer and philanthropist Jennifer Hudson’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner was one for the books when she sang at Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. She was the second American Idol alum consecutively to do the honors, after singer Jordin Sparks had the honor the year before. This performance also marked her first public appearance after the tragedy of her mother, brother, and nephew being killed the year prior.
As aforementioned, American Idol alum Jordin Sparks performed the anthem at Super Bowl XLII in 2008. Coincidentally, she is also the daughter of former New York Giants cornerback, Phillippi Sparks (the game that year was between The New York Giants and the New England Patriots.) Another fun coincidence is that the game was held in her native hometown of Glendale, Arizona.