9 iconic Super Bowl halftime performances from classic musicians

From The Rolling Stones to Smokey Robinson, which Super Bowl halftime show is your favorite?

Image credit: AP Photo

As the National Football League (NFL) season comes to a close, every February during the annual Super Bowl, there are three things most people look forward to: the big game, the many commercials and the iconic halftime show.

As Super Bowl LVII gets closer, we want to look back at some of the most memorable halftime performances from past years. The halftime show has evolved in both production and quality over the decades. 

The first halftime show was in 1967 and featured only two marching bands from The University of Arizona and Grambling State University. Today's halftime shows feature everything from lights, full dance routines and... sometimes a left shark that just won't stay in place!

We want to look back at nine of the most memorable and iconic halftime performances featuring classic rock, old-school pop and Motown artists from the 1970s and 1980s.

Which halftime show has been your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

1. The Rockettes & Chubby Checker - Super Bowl XXII, 1988

 

Image credit: AP Photo

The 1988 Super Bowl halftime show featured a theme called "Something Grand," and boy, was it. This grand performance, featuring 88 grand pianos, redefined the Super Bowl halftime show.

Along with its theme, this show also featured a sea of dancers and cheerleaders, Chubby Checker, The Rockettes and two college marching bands... all playing at the same time.

This halftime show was the first one to feature a popular musician, and ever since then, the halftime show has been packed with top musicians of our time.

2. Michael Jackson - Super Bowl XXVII, 1993

 

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Michael Jackson performed at the 1993 Super Bowl halftime show in Pasadena. Jackson's performance is still considered one of the most popular halftime shows to date.

The theme was "Heal the World." Jackson played hits which included "Billie Jean," "Black or White," and "Heal the World."

His performance was so successful that it caused viewership to increase between halves for the first time in NFL history.

Jackson's halftime performance has been credited with establishing norms for future Super Bowl shows, including a focus on major names and higher production value.

3. Diana Ross - Super Bowl XXX, 1996

 

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A piece of history was made the night Diana Ross performed at the 1996 Super Bowl halftime show. Ross became the first black woman to perform solo at the Super Bowl.

The theme was "Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 Years of the Super Bowl." Her performance featured many costume changes, special effects and a few surprises. 

Hits such as "Baby Love," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "You Can't Hurry Love," were included in her set.

So what could have taken Ross any higher? The show ended with the song "Take Me Higher," in which Ross was lifted out of the stadium in a helicopter. 

4. The Blues Brothers with James Brown and ZZ Top - Super Bowl XXXI, 1997

 

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The Blues Brothers, James Brown and ZZ Top all took the stage at the 1997 Super Bowl halftime show.

The show highlighted blues music, and was intended to create hype around the release of Blues Brothers 2000. Sadly, their halftime show is rated among the Super Bowl's least favorite performances.

But James Brown in a pink satin suit and ZZ Top entering the stage on a motorcycle singing "Tush," sounds pretty iconic to us.

5. A Tribute to Motown's 40th Anniversary - Super Bowl XXXII, 1998

 

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Motown was front and center during the 1998 Super Bowl halftime show. It featured some of the biggest names in R&B and Motown at the time. 

The stacked lineup included: Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Queen Latifah and Martha Reeves.

Motown's finest and the Grambling State University marching band joined together to sing "Dancing in the Street," as their last song of the show. 

6. Paul McCartney - Super Bowl XXXIX, 2005

 

Image credit: AP Photo

Paul McCartney was the headline performer at the Super Bowl's 2005 halftime show. McCartney played fan-favorite songs which included: "Get Back," "Live and Let Die," "Hey Jude," and more.

McCartney was considered a safe choice after the 2004 Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake halftime performance, which became highly controversial. 

Safe or not, McCartney's halftime performance went down in the history books and it's considered many people's favorite performance.

7. The Rolling Stones - Super Bowl XL, 2006

 

Image credit: AP Photo

The Rolling Stones performed at the 2006 Super Bowl which was held in Detroit, Michigan. Super Bowl coordinators and event staff had one goal in mind: no controversy. 

However, the choice to have The Rolling Stones perform did spark controversy. Many people in the Detroit community felt that The Rolling Stones did not represent the music of Detroit. 

Despite some negativity surrounding their performance, the halftime show was viewed by 89.9 million people. 

The 28-piece stage was shaped as the group's iconic tongue logo, and was assembled by a 600-member volunteer group. 

8. Prince - Super Bowl XLI, 2007

 

Image credit: AP Photo

Who doesn't love Prince? During his performance at the Super Bowl in 2007, he and others found out just how many people love Prince.

He played in front of 74,512 fans at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and an estimated 140 million TV viewers, making it the biggest audience of his life. 

His halftime show is considered one of the most iconic halftime shows yet.

He had a 12-minute performance that featured many songs, including a few covers. His top hits of the night included: "Let's Go Crazy," "Baby I'm a Star," "Purple Rain," and more.

Prince ended with "Purple Rain," in a downpour over the stadium. 


9. Madonna - Super Bowl XLVI, 2012

 

Image credit: AP Photo

One of the most iconic queens of pop music joined forces with emerging pop artists in the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show. 

Madonna was joined by M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green and more. 

Madonna's halftime performance broke the record for the most viewed Super Bowl halftime show ever, defeating Michael Jackson's previous record, with 114 million viewers worldwide. 

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26 Comments

Snickers 1 month ago
Never watched the half time shows, Half time was bathroom break and pizza with wings.
Moverfan 6 months ago
I've watched two halftime shows and they didn't mention either of them. Where are Bruce Springsteen and The Who?
sjbang88 12 months ago
Hold up. This story states that Madonna’s 2012 show broke Michael Jackson's 1993 previous viewing record, with 114 million viewers, however it is stated earlier that the audience for Prince’s 2007 show drew 140 million viewers. Did I read this incorrectly?
JHP 13 months ago
For me #8 was so great I can still see it as a memory - what a scary talent!!
Grammygram 16 months ago
I’m still waiting for KISS to play. LOL
madvincent Grammygram 16 months ago
they FINALLY retired........thank Gawd,...lol
madvincent 16 months ago
you can't have The Blue's Brothers without John Belushi......he was dead 17 years before that game,hence the horrible review
Mblack 16 months ago
A lot of these are sixties stars. Yet they performed after their prime. Were there no half time extravaganzas in early Superbowls?
LoveMETV22 Mblack 16 months ago
As far as what is published, Super Bowl halftime shows started in the late sixties, (1967). Mainly a lot of Marching bands at first However a few celebrities/singers appeared in the 70's,
(Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams), to name a few.A few celebrities in the 80's
( George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Chubby Checker), But still a lot of bands. it was in the early 90's, 91-92 when the pop stars started performing, 91 " New Kids on the Block, 92 " Gloria Estefan,
93 " Michael Jackson" and so on.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 16 months ago
Yes, the early SB halftimes were cheap college bands! It wasn't until the big money came in when the shows got big!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 16 months ago
More the change in sponsorship of the event.
Bapa1 16 months ago
Bring back Up With People!
cperrynaples Bapa1 16 months ago
No, please don't...LOL!
Bapa1 cperrynaples 16 months ago
"Up, up with people, you meet them wherever you go, up up with people, they're the best kind of folks to know. If more people, were for people, for people everywhere, there'd be a lot less people to worry about, and a lot more people, a lot more people, who care, care carrrred, people everywhere!" I had to sing this elementary school.
MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
I used to tune into the half-time show but haven’t for years. I didn’t realize the shows had themes.
Mblack MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
I can never know when half-time is. The good thing is that Sunday night tv won't be delayed after Sunday, at least for a while.
KawiVulc 16 months ago
back when I gave a crap I'd have rather watched analysis at halftime just like every other game of the season but these days they can keep all of it.
harlow1313 16 months ago
Let's face it, The Super Bowl is about as rock and roll as a Polo shirt. I can remember when rock seemed to matter. Nevermore.
cperrynaples 16 months ago
You left out Michael's sister Janet! Was it because of a "wardrobe malfunction"...LOL!
Bapa1 16 months ago
It's hard to do a 12 min. set. And you can't please everybody. Somebody always will complain, because they don't like the genre of the music.
LoveMETV22 16 months ago
"Which Super Bowl halftime show is your favorite?"
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What? No Janet Jackson, Beyonce, U2, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.
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Guess a few, can't decide on just one. Always enjoy the half-time shows, but some of the commercials are good as well. ( Maybe MeTV is saving the commercials for another story or Quiz?)
Peter_Falk_Fan LoveMETV22 16 months ago
U2 had a very moving one just months after 9/11.
327053 LoveMETV22 16 months ago
Never really paid that much attention to the halftime shows. Most memorable to me are the commercials. The Walmart clown is hilarious. Also those two guys who worked for Pepsi and Coke. 🤣
JHP 327053 13 months ago
for the past 10 years the ads have are as lame as Bob Crachit
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