When I heard Whitney Houston died, I didn’t think about her many Billboard No. 1 singles (couldn’t tell you one) or her success in movies (knew she did “Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner but never saw it).
What I remembered was how Houston pumped out the best National Anthem ever at the 1991 Super Bowl. Even before her passing, I’d call it up periodically on YouTube just to relive it.
She was smack dab in the middle of her prime, belting out the “Star-Spangled Banner” with her once-in-a-generation vocals. She killed the high notes and captured hearts with her fresh-faced beauty and the way she beamed throughout her moment on the big stage.
Many national anthem singers leave you hoping they just don’t drag it out. But a few have been able to knock it out of the park, and I’ve got other favorites.
If you haven’t heard Marvin Gaye’s rendition at the 1983 NBA All-Star game, I’d encourage you to Google it. It’s smooth and original and had the crowd clapping to the beat. If you look closely, you’ll spot former Dayton star Jim Paxson (in a perm haircut) standing with the other All-Stars and cracking a slight smile seemingly over Gaye’s audacity to turn the anthem into a soul song.
Jimi Hendrix’s guitar version is another that belongs near the top. The “bombs bursting in air” part where he manipulates the chords to create a sound of real bombs going off is pure genius.
But Whitney stands alone. And what sticks out is how she radiated confidence in her talents before drugs and alcohol slowly took it all away. Sadly, in the entertainment world, it’s an all too familiar story.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2125 or dharris@DaytonDailyNews.com.