Some people think Marvin Gaye's version of the National Anthem at the All-Star Game in L.A. was the greatest of all time. Some think that title belongs to Jimi Hendrix. There is no wrong answer since it's a matter of opinion, but to me it isn't even close. Whitney Houston's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner prior to Super Bowl XXV -- the Scott Norwood game -- is the most beautiful version I've ever heard. And it was heart-breaking to learn that she had died the other day.
It's easy to sing the anthem well. There are a billion artists who have done it with great voices of their own that were more than acceptable. But I've never heard anything that compares to Houston's. Yes, her voice was phenomenal, but she had range! She had poignancy! In her version of the anthem, she was able to sway the emotion of the crowd just by shifting her tone, going from bombastic to serene to jubilant, and she did it at a time that captured the unsettled nature of America, which had entered into the Gulf War barely a week beforehand.
To be honest, it's hard to watch her sing with such unbridled emotion without getting a little teary-eyed. Houston, after all, was married to Bobby Brown in what can only be described as one of the most turbulent, dysfunctional marriages in history; it's hard to believe she was this ambivalent, this happy in her day-to-day life. And now that she's dead, it just makes her version even sadder to revisit because a damn good singer lost her life too damn early.