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21 Years Ago: Garth Brooks Sings National Anthem at Super Bowl Pre-Game Show

Marlee Matlin Garth Brooks
George Rose, Getty Images

21 years ago today (Jan. 31, 1993), Garth Brooks earned one of the most coveted performance slots of all time — singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

But according to former NFL Executive Director Don Weiss’ book, ‘The Making of the Super Bowl: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Sporting Event,’ fans filling the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif., as well as the 91 million people watching from home, were unaware of how close the Oklahoma native came to not taking the stage.

Brooks had filmed a video for his song, ‘We Shall Be Free,’ which was written in response to the Los Angeles riots that had occurred following the Rodney King case in 1992. The singer hoped to debut the video — which included clips of the Ku Klux Klan, cross and flag burnings, war scenes, riots and and natural disasters, as well as several celebrity cameos — during the Super Bowl, but NBC executives refused, saying the images were too disturbing.

Fortunately for Brooks, he had denied the request from the network to pre-record his performance, so when he realized they were not going to air the emotional ‘We Shall Be Free’ video, he left the stadium 45 minutes before kickoff.

Jon Bon Jovi, who was attending the game, was immediately brought in as a back-up plan, while the producers and Brooks argued. Ultimately, the country music superstar won, and for the first time in NFL history, the beginning of the game was delayed to show the video.

Actress Marlee Matlin joined Brooks to perform the anthem in sign language as he sang.

While Brooks got his way, the NFL learned their lesson, and since then have made it a requirement that all performers pre-record their singing.

“That’s the right way to do it,” former Super Bowl Music Director Ricky Minor says. “There’s too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live, because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance.”

Brooks wasn’t the only musical guest for Super Bowl XXVII. He was joined by Tanya Tucker, Billy Burnette and Fleetwood Mac in the pre-game show, with Michael Jackson taking over the half-time event.

Other country artists who have sung ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ for the biggest sporting event of the year include Charley Pride, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Opera star Renee Fleming will take over the honors on Sunday (Feb. 2) for Super Bowl XLVIII. The game, held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, pits the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks.

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