The Prince Super Bowl Performance

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For years the NFL’s Super Bowl halftime entertainment featured an assortment of middle-of-the-road productions with less-than-stellar talent. At Super Bowl XI in Pasadena in 1977, for instance, the theme was “It’s a Small World,” which featured the Los Angeles Unified All City Band. In 1984, for Super Bowl XVIII at Tampa Stadium, it was “Salute to Superstars of the Silver Screen,” which included “Hooray for Hollywood” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

For years, home viewers understandably treated the halftime show as one long toilet break.

The lackluster productions continued. The #1-rated TV broadcast every single year starred such performers as Up With People (1986), New Kids on the Block (1991) and Gloria Estefan (1992). Not surprisingly, many of those shows were produced by such family-friendly organizations as the Walt Disney Company or Radio City Music Hall Productions.

Watch 1977’s Super Bowl XI halftime show… if you dare! (The clip begins at around the 20-second mark.)

After years of featuring tame acts as the halftime entertainment, the NFL shifted gears. The first inkling was for Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 with Michael Jackson. In 1997, a somewhat oddball combination of the Blues Brothers, ZZ Top and James Brown performed. In 2000, Phil Collins shared the bill with a number of pop stars.

For the next decade, the NFL then began a great run of classic rock acts: Aerosmith (2001), U2 (2002) and Sting (2003). After Super Bowl XXXVIII featured a variety of acts including Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” the rock stars continued with Paul McCartney (2005), the Rolling Stones (2006), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009) and The Who (2010).

Sandwiched in between was Prince at Super Bowl XLI at rain-drenched Dolphin Stadium on Feb. 4, 2007. As Production Designer Bruce Rodgers describes it: “It was like a scene from Moby Dick. Prince was like ‘Can you make it rain harder?’ and I was like ‘Right on…’.”

His eight-song medley included his own hits “Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999,” “Baby I’m a Star” and the closer, “Purple Rain.” He also did several unlikely covers: “We Will Rock You,” “Proud Mary” and “All Along the Watchtower.”

Watch Prince’s electrifying performance medley of “Let’s Go Crazy,” “All Along the Watchtower” and “Purple Rain” in a downpour. (You’ll need to click where it says “Watch on YouTube”)

In recent years, the halftime show has drifted back to big name pop stars including the Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Madonna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, The Weeknd and Rihanna. And for Super Bowl LVIII, on Feb. 11, 2024, it’ll be Usher.

But for a while, classic rock owned the year’s biggest stage. And none was as dynamic as the Purple One.

If you’re looking for tickets to the “Big Game,” try here.

Related: Our interview with Prince’s Sign O’ the Times‘ insiders

Best Classic Bands Staff

3 Comments so far

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  1. Celya723
    #1 Celya723 3 February, 2019, 01:13

    You nailed it with Prince putting on the most dynamic Super Bowl performance in the pouring rain! I too have watched this game for many years and have cheered the transition of halftime performances from wholesome Americana to rock and pop performances from a great variety of proven and well regarded performers. But Prince’s set with his flair for showmanship in the driving rain – completely drenching everyone on stage and ruining costumes & roadies alike – was out of this world great for a performance that never flagged and a performer and his band that didn’t quit. Prince and his music may not be everyone’s favorite flavor, but for that night across the continent and around the world he was everyones #1 performer.

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  2. Cooch
    #2 Cooch 9 February, 2023, 13:37

    How privileged to be one of the lucky ones to have witnessed the best halftime show ever. I have been at 15 Super Bowls and this positively was the best halftime show hands down ever. Thank you guitar extraordinaire, you are definitely missed, but your music will live on 4ever!!

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  3. JennyB
    #3 JennyB 18 February, 2023, 12:49

    I have to give solid props to this talented man and his ability to stand in the elements and, as they say, the show must go on. And in his care it did, with all of his incredible energy. My only problem with this clip was the constant commentary during his guitar solos as if they didn’t matter. It was frustrating to listen to and all I could say while watching was “Shut up!” (expletives included!). Prince was The Man that day and his performance rocked big time. It was the best Super Bowl halftime on record. RIP, Purple One, you still rock!

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