More than 50 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. Here are some highlights. (This article first appeared in Uncle John’s Fast-Acting, Long-Lasting Bathroom Reader.)
HUT HUT HUT!
Marching bands from the universities of Arizona and Michigan perform.
The NFL experiments with big-name celebrity halftime entertainers. Their first big star: Carol Channing.
“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.”
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.” Up With People returned in 1980 (“Salute to the Big Band Era”), in 1982 (“Salute to the ’60s”), and in 1986 (“The Beat of the Future,” ironically, their last Super Bowl appearance).
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.
“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.
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.”
Michael Jackson sings “Heal the World,” accompanied by a choir of 3,500 children.
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.
“A Salute to Motown’s 40th Anniversary” concludes with Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, the Temptations, and Queen Latifah all singing “Dancing in the Streets” together.
Shania Twain performs “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” but is accused of lip-synching.
Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson play Timberlake’s hit “Rock Your Body.” Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” introduces a new phrase into the lexicon.
Paul McCartney sings “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude” (without lip-synching or exposing himself).
Byoncé brought the house down with a much anticipated Destiny’s Child reunion.
Lady Gaga gets a record of 6 Emmy nominations for the half-time show.