Whitney Houston performing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV in 1991
I was 8 years old when Whitney Houston sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. I don’t remember watching it. The only thing I remember about the Gulf War, which would end that February, was that my babysitter’s sister was a servicewoman stationed in Saudi Arabia. We met her at the airport the day she returned from duty, and she handed me a Saudi riyal from her wallet. It was, to me, at 8, the most exotic relic I’d ever seen.
When I heard that Whitney Houston had passed away, her national anthem immediately came to mind. During a friend’s barbecue in Chicago a couple years ago, a few of us ended up gathered around a laptop in the kitchen after drinking just the right amount of beers to make sharing YouTube videos seem like a good idea in the middle of a summer party (100 percent of Chicago summers should be spent outdoors, not on the internet). We found our way to the clip of Whitney Houston’s national anthem, and we replayed it several times, surprised by the visceral, physical reaction we all experienced while watching it. While I’ve read that Whitney’s anthem was a triumphant moment for America during an uncertain time of war, what sticks out to me and the rest of my peers who might not connect with the symbolism behind the performance is her raw, unwavering talent. Hers was truly a voice you only hear once in a lifetime.
+ Read more about Whitney Houston’s national anthem performance after the jump.
Whitney Houston performed the national anthem the way it’s supposed to be performed — there were no superfluous runs, no flashy key changes. She seemed to understand the way artists these days often don’t that the national anthem isn’t about the musician performing it. The song is a tribute to the brave history of our country and a humble thank-you note to the servicemen and women to whom we are forever indebted. Whitney Houston knew that, and it’s like the song just poured out of her. It’s the most powerfully effortless live performance I’ve ever seen, and how lucky we are to be able to watch it any time we please.
In an age where we’re pressing fast-forward 20 seconds into hearing a new song or losing all interest in a video segment after the 1:30 mark, there’s something tangible about the desire to watch Whitney Houston’s national anthem not only all the way through, but repeatedly and with friends. That something is Whitney’s voice, a gift she graciously shared with the world that will remain in a class of its own for a very long time to come.
Watch Whitney Houston’s videos and interviews, watch Whitney Houston’s last performance on Thursday, Feb. 9, find out more about Whitney Houston’s musical legacy, see how Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna are remembering her, and watch Whitney Houston’s top MTV moments. And leave your thoughts and Whitney Houston memories in the comments.
Photo credit: Getty Images