HomeEntertainmentWhitney Houston’s Music Director Nearly Got Fired by NFL Executives for Anthem Rendition in 1991

Whitney Houston’s Music Director Nearly Got Fired by NFL Executives for Anthem Rendition in 1991

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Thirty years ago, Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl XXV. What she presented was a truly legendary rendition. However, what fans might not know is how much drama went on behind the scenes before the performance.

According to an article from ESPN, Houston was recorded singing the National Anthem before her Super Bowl performance on Jan. 27, 1991. This is not an uncommon practice for singers performing at large events.

According to Jim Steeg, whose job it was to coordinate the Super Bowl, the Florida Orchestra first recorded the National Anthem in early January 1991. The musical recording was then taken to Los Angeles, California, where Houston recorded her vocals. Interestingly, Houston nailed the track in one take.

“There’s no way to rehearse the sound of the crowd … coming at you,” national anthem producer Rickey Minor said years later. “You don’t know where the first note begins.”

Whitney Houston prerecording the National Anthem was fine with NFL officials at first. However, they later expressed concern about the pace at which the singer performed the song. According to ESPN, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is written in 3/4 time.

Houston, the music director, and company slowed it down to 4/4 time for her performance. This almost derailed what later became a legendary moment in Super Bowl history. After NFL executives heard the song, they said it was too difficult to sing along to. The song needed to be recorded again or there would be trouble was the message from the NFL brass.

This, however, didn’t take place. Steeg said he did reach out to Whitney Houston’s father, John, with the NFL executives’ concerns. Mr. Houston was having no of that. “The conversation was brief,” Steeg said. “There would be no rerecording.”

Whitney Houston Sings Thrilling Rendition of the National Anthem Before Super Bowl XXV

There wasn’t – and thank goodness for that. Had there been, it’s likely that we would have lost one of the greatest renditions of the National Anthem ever recorded.

It, according to Esquire.com, “was a tour de force of an anthem, pivoting between powerful silky notes and effortlessly rich vibrato. The intricacies were somehow both subtle and revolutionary, unlike any Super Bowl rendition of the National Anthem that had ever preceded it.”

Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” proved to be so popular that her record label decided to release it as a single. In true American style, the singer chose to donate the proceeds to support the country’s troops and their families.

“They say the national anthem is one of the hardest songs to sing, but it gets a whole lot easier to use those notes when you think about the many men and women risking their lives in the Middle East,” Houston reportedly said.

You can watch Whitney Houston sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Super Bowl XXV in 1991 below.