Whenever someone utters “NFL” and “national anthem” in the same sentence these days, the thought immediately goes to anthem protests. It’s understandable, sure, but it never used to be like this. Back in the day, people would be glued to the television to listen to a big name or even an up-and-coming star sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in their own unique way.
On Thanksgiving Day, no matter where the game is played, singing the national anthem is a big deal. Although it might not feature music’s biggest stars like at the Super Bowl, the performances on Thursdays in late November are incredibly creative and powerful.
Nobody put on a Thanksgiving Day national anthem quite like the late Aretha Franklin’s national anthem before the Detroit Lions-Minnesota Vikings Thanksgiving Day game in 2016. The Queen of Soul had an epic performance in her hometown, one that was so long that it actually delayed the game’s start time, and it is still talked about to this day.
However, outside of Aretha Franklin and other big stars, such as country music artist Taylor Swift, there have been some stellar performances. Here are seven of the best Thanksgiving national anthems you probably forgot:
Mike Phillips (2017)
It takes a lot of confidence to stand in the middle of the field by yourself, in front of a sold-out crowd and the rest of the country watching, and deliver a big-time performance, but Mike Phillips made it happen while playing the saxophone. He absolutely rocked it, even holding one of the closing notes for over 15 seconds that made Minnesota Vikings players nod in approval. Even he was hype, and understandably so. It was awesome.
Sabrina Carpenter (2015)
Prior to the Detroit Lions’ showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles, the “Girl Meets World” star and accomplished singer put on a signing clinic. It’s definitely a different voice and style than some pop stars, but, man, she had some range that day.
New Hollow (2010)
It’s not every day that an up-and-coming group from Ohio, one that are self-taught vocalists and musicians, gets to perform at AT&T Stadium before a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day, but the trio put on the show with two acoustic guitars and a snare drum. It was very strong and unique performance from the then-new rock band.
Jackie Evancho (2013)
Of all of the performances you probably forgot on Thanksgiving Day, this might be the one you will always remember. The Pittsburgh native and classical crossover singer was just 13 years old when she took Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan by storm. All you can say is, “WOW!”
Big Time Rush (2011)
This foursome of James Maslow, Logan Henderson, Carlos Pena, and Kendall Schmidt got their start on Nickelodeon and they parlayed it into a big-time a cappella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Dallas Cowboys played the Miami Dolphins in Texas. This would be so easy for any group to mess up, but Big Time Rush was on point to honor the USA.
Zendaya Coleman (2013)
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers got a treat when this rising pop and R&B star took the microphone on that Thursday night. Adding some fireworks only enhanced the solid solo national anthem performance by the then-teenager.
Kerry Wilkerson (2017)
The best has been saved for last. Nothing is more American than a veteran in uniform singing the national anthem and Master Sergeant Kerry Wilkerson, who was retired from the United States Marine Corps, was simply incredible.