According to Billboard and other sources, soul and r&b legend Gladys Knight is scheduled to sing the National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl.
The announcement bears some importance to those who have concerns about performers of color refusing to perform during the half-time show. Controversy has plagued the NFL where people of color are concerned ever since players of color began to protest the anthem by taking a knee.
Sanctions against players who kneeled during the anthem brought charges of racism against team owners. All of this controversy came ahead of a roster of performers, specifically, artists of color, who did not want to perform as the half-time act. Once rock band Maroon 5 was secured as the main act, it seemed no mainstream artist wanted the second slot.
Needless to say, the NFL has had an uneasy relationship with black Americans during the past few years. With Knight selected as the singer of the National Anthem, perhaps people will begin to rethink their approach to the American football franchise.
Whether people link Knight’s performance to the controversies about race or not (specifically the end of them), Knight’s record of hits and outstanding performances and her place among American music icons remain unchallenged. As a musical national treasure, Knight deserves respect during her performance from fans and players.
Gladys Knight in brief
Known for performing with her backing group, The Pips, Gladys Knight has a voice that stands out among thousands of other singers. In the 1960s through the 1980s, Knight breathed life into the heartache of parting lovers in songs like “Midnight Georgia.” Her rich vocals wrapped around the lyrics and made them relevant to listeners who might never have ridden a train to Georgia or elsewhere, but she made them understand.
Gladys Knight and the Pips actually began to score hits in the middle of the 1960s, with their version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The group would have a handful of hits throughout the 1970s until reported legal issues would force Knight to record separately from the group that included one of her brothers and one cousin.
“Midnight Train to Georgia” remains the song most closely linked to Knight’s name. The song became a No. 1 hit on pop and r&b charts in 1973.
Knight is known as the Empress of Soul and her stature as an artist with seven Grammy awards bears this out. Her performance at the Super Bowl will hopefully bring people together, if only temporarily. It might be too much to ask for a National Treasure, but maybe not.
Super Bowl XLIII is scheduled to be played at Mercedes-Benz Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. Kick-off is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.