Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
History of the Super Bowl Halftime Show
Super Bowl LVI is in the history books and as many expected the Los Angeles Rams are the new owners of the Lombardi Trophy. The AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals tried to play the Cinderella role and nearly pulled off an upset victory, but Aaron Donald was the big difference maker slamming the door on Joe Burrow and his upstart Bengals as time ran out in the game.
Aside from the game being entertaining and competitive, the highly promoted and much-publicized halftime show is another story. For rap music fans, they most likely loved the entertainment that featured some of rap’s biggest stars. But the show itself was an example of how outrageous the Super Bowl halftime show has become.
My critique of the show will most definitely draw some hard criticism and my opinion is that a halftime show should be more related to the game itself. In some fashion tie the entertainment to the game of football in some sense. College football fans will know exactly what I’m talking about. Most collegiate gridiron games have marching bands as a halftime show. Boring you might think but there are marching bands out there that are not just amazing but truly talented and do put on a good show.
Having graduated from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, when I was a student in the late 1970s and early 80s’s we looked forward to the Rock marching band performing every Saturday during home games. So, while this is about college football halftime shows, the older generation may remember that the Super Bowl from its onset in the 1960s, the early performances at halftime were marching bands.
For example, in Super Bowl, I, the very first AFC (AFL back then) vs. NFC (known then as what league is today, NFL) the Green Bay Packers won their first of two straight Super Bowls and after the second quarter gun sounded and the teams took to their respective locker rooms, the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band was joined by the Grambling State University Marching Band as well as star musician Al Hirt and the Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls to entertain the masses in attendance.
Boring you say? Perhaps for some but it gave a football halftime show feel to it. Over the next 26 years and 26 Super Bowls, the entertainment at halftime began to stray from the marching bands with a mix of singers, musicians, and such that sang and played on a softer theme.
In that span of 26 Super Bowls, the entertainers included performers like Doc Severinsen, several marching bands, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Up with People, The Apache Band, Al Hirt again several times, George burns and Mickey Rooney, Chubby Checker, and The Rockettes.
Then came Super Bowl XXV in 1991 when Scott Norwood missed a field goal that would have given his Buffalo Bills their only Lombardi Trophy in four tries, but it wasn’t meant to be. At halftime, the show featured “New Kids on the Block” and that began the trend of having popular pop groups take the stage at Super Bowls, and soon it went from just music to some exuberant show.
The year after New Kids on the Block entertained the teenagers of the world, most of whom were most likely only interested in watching one of the world’s hottest boy bands at the time the stage at Super Bowl XXVI featured Gloria Estefan although she was joined by the University of Minnesota marching band. Then came the “King of Pop” the late Michael Jackson who was the sole performer at Super Bowl XXVII.
For a change of pace, the following year it was a country music show with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds. That did not go over well as only one other country act has been featured since (Shania Twain, Super Bowl XXXVII). Following that it was mostly about the singers with Patti Labelle, Diana Ross, Teddy Pendergrass, ZZ Top, The Blues Brothers, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Boyz II Men, and Phil Collins appearing at the big game just to name a few.
The Super Bowl halftime planners were getting further and further away from having the entertainment giving a football feel like you were at a game. The breaking point probably came at Super Bowl XLVI when Madonna’s halftime show may have been the worst in history. Awful. So bad that you can’t find enough negative words to describe it. Perhaps that was the one show that jump-started ridiculously bad shows.
From that point on we’ve had the bizarre Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake again, Maroon 5, the dirty dancing of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, and then the capper that came with this season’s Super Bowl that was all rap.
For the show that Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and others put on, we may have well set up strip poles on stage. Those performances while accompanied by the rapping of these stars were more like a burlesque show. Sure, some fans may have loved this show, but I highly doubt any football purists who were watching the Super Bowl with the intention of what this game is supposed to represent enjoyed even a second of this latest version of the halftime show.
The groping, dirty dancing, bumping, and grinding are more suited for some of the adult men clubs strewed across the country, not for a football halftime show. So, call me a prude, call me a nerd, call me what you will but this show was certainly not for everyone. As I've always believed, “to each his/her own.” So, I’m not knocking rap fans, but I think if they just had to do a rap show then why not go old school with say the “Sugarhill Gang,” or even the “Fresh Prince.” How about some Kurtis Blow or Doug E. Fresh.
Unfortunately, today’s rap has so many illicit and negative as well as violent lyrics to it, is that what we want the youth of today to listen to and see while watching a football game? Hardly role model material. Remember, the Super Bowl is supposed to be about football, but we are so far removed from that now. For the record, here is the entire list of halftime performances from Super Bowl I to this year’s big game.
Super Bowl I: University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band, Al HirtAnaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls
Super Bowl II: Grambling State University Marching Band
Super Bowl III: Florida A&M University band, Miami-area high school bands
Super Bowl IV: Marguerite Piazza, Doc Severinsen, Al Hirt, Lionel Hampton, Carol Channing, Southern University Marching Band
Super Bowl V: Southeast Missouri State Marching Band
Super Bowl VI: Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt, USAFA Cadet Chorale, U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team
Super Bowl VII: University of Michigan Marching Band, Woody Herman, Andy Williams
Super Bowl VIII: University of Texas Longhorn Band, Judy Mallett (Miss Texas 1973) on fiddle
Super Bowl IX: Mercer Ellington & Grambling State University Marching Band
Super Bowl X: Up with People
Super Bowl XI: Los Angeles Unified All-City Band with the New Mouseketeers & Audience card stunt
Super Bowl XII: Tyler Apache Belles Drill Team, The Apache Band, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt
Super Bowl XIII: Ken Hamilton, Various Caribbean bands, including Gramacks out of Dominica
Super Bowl XIV: Up with People, Grambling State University Marching Bands
Super Bowl XV: Southern University Marching Band, Helen O'Connell
Super Bowl XVI: Up with People
Super Bowl XVII: Los Angeles Super Drill Team
Super Bowl XVIII: University of Florida and Florida State University Marching Bands
Super Bowl XIX: Tops in Blue
Super Bowl XX: Up with People
Super Bowl XXI: George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Grambling State University and USC Marching Bands, Disney characters, Southern California-area high school drill teams and dancers
Super Bowl XXII: Chubby Checker, The Rockettes, 88 grand pianos, the combined San Diego State University Marching Aztecs, California State University Northridge Marching Band and USC Marching Bands
Super Bowl XXIII: Elvis Presto, South Florida-area dancers and performers
Super Bowl XXIV: Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas, Nicholls State University Marching Band, Southern University Marching Band, USL Marching Band
Super Bowl XXV: New Kids on the Block, Disney characters, Warren Moon, 2,000 local children, Audience (card stunt)
Super Bowl XXVI: Gloria Estefan, Olympic figure skaters, Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill, Members of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, University of Minnesota Marching Band
Super Bowl XXVII: Michael Jackson
Super Bowl XXVIII: Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, The Judds
Super Bowl XXIX: Patti Labelle, Indiana Jones & Marion Ravenwood, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine
Super Bowl XXX: Diana Ross
Super Bowl XXXI: The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Jim Belushi), ZZ Top, James Brown, Catherine Crier ("news" intro)
Super Bowl XXXII: Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah, Grambling State University Marching Band
Super Bowl XXXIII: Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover
Super Bowl XXXIV: Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, 80-person choir, Edward James Olmos (narrator)
Super Bowl XXXV: Aerosmith, NSYNC
Super Bowl XXXVI: U2
Super Bowl XXXVII: Shania Twain, No Doubt
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake
Super Bowl XXXIX: Paul McCartney
Super Bowl XL: The Rolling Stones
Super Bowl XLI: Prince
Super Bowl XLII: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Super Bowl XLIII: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Super Bowl XLIV: The Who
Super Bowl XLV: The Black Eyed Peas
Super Bowl XLVI: Madonna
Super Bowl XLVII: Beyoncé
Super Bowl XLVIII: Bruno Mars
Super Bowl XLIX: Katy Perry
Super Bowl L: Coldplay
Super Bowl LI: Lady Gaga
Super Bowl LII: Justin Timberlake
Super Bowl LIII: Maroon 5
Super Bowl LIV: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez
Super Bowl LV: The Weeknd
Super Bowl LVI: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar