More than 40 years after the first Super Bowl broadcast, the halftime show is no longer just something to fill TV airtime while the football players rest—it’s now a spectacle unto itself.
1970: The NFL experiments with big-name celebrity halftime entertainers. Their first big star: Carol Channing.
1972: “A Salute to Louis Armstrong,” with Ella Fitzgerald, Al Hirt, the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team…and Carol Channing. Armstrong had died the previous summer. Songs included “High Society” and “Hello, Dolly.”
1976: Up with People, a “clean-cut” troupe of young dancers and singers, kicks off the yearlong American bicentennial celebration with a collection of patriotic songs called “200 Years and Just a Baby.”
1980: Up with People returns with a “Salute to the Big Band Era.”
1982: Up with People returns with a “Salute to the ‘60s.”
1986: Up With People returns with “The Beat of the Future,” ironically their last Super Bowl appearance.
1988: Chubby Checker sings “The Super Bowl Twist” while the Rockettes dance on a giant grand piano–shaped stage. The rest of the field is filled with 88 grand pianos. The occasion: it’s 1988.
1990: “A Salute to New Orleans and Snoopy’s 40th Birthday,” combines New Orleans musicians (clarinetist Pete Fountain, Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, and blues singer Irma Thomas) with 400 dancers, a 500-voice choir, marching bands from three Louisiana colleges, and actors dressed up like characters from the “Peanuts” comic strip.
1992: To promote the upcoming Winter Olympics (to be broadcast, like the 1992 Super Bowl, on CBS), Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill figure skate while Gloria Estefan sings a song called “Pump It Up, Frosty.”
1993: Michael Jackson sings “Heal the World,” accompanied by a choir of 3,500 children.
1995: Disney produces the halftime show, which they use to promote a new Indiana Jones–themed ride at Disneyland with an Indiana Jones–themed show featuring Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine, and 1,000 dancers.
2004: Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson play Timberlake’s hit “Rock Your Body.” Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” introduces a new phrase into the lexicon.
2005: Paul McCartney sings “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude” (without lip-synching or exposing himself). This ushers in a new era in halftime performers: well-known rock and pop superstars performing a medley of their hits. In the years since, performers have included the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Madonna, and this year, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.