The first time the national anthem was sung at the Super Bowl, it was nothing like today.

America's national anthem has had some of its all-time greatest performances at the Super Bowl.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.


There was Whitney, of course.

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.

Beyoncé took a whack at it 12 years ago.

In related news, you are so unbelievably old. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images.

Even Neil Diamond did a surprisingly solid job that one time.

Neil Diamond used to look like this. Photo by Jack Kay/Getty Images.

But who was first? Like, very first?

That would be this guy:

Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images.

Charley Pride.

He sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl VIII in 1974. Before him, at Super Bowls I-VII, the national anthem was performed by marching bands, choirs, and instrumentalists.

Not only was Pride the first solo performer to sing the anthem at the Super Bowl, he was the first black performer to achieve country music superstardom.

As a black man trying to break into one of the whitest segments of the music industry in the 1960s, Pride's career was managed — carefully.

Like many of his contemporaries (and pretty much all of his predecessors), Pride had to put up with more than his fair share of racist BS. Even some of his supporters used nasty epithets when pitching him and his music.

His first couple of recordings didn't even feature a picture of his face.

Ultimately, however, talent won out. Pride topped the country charts 36 times and has sold over 70 million albums.

Hits like "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" and "Is Anybody Going to San Antone" made Pride the biggest-selling artist for his label (RCA) since Elvis.

Pride never liked being defined by his race, despite the long odds he had to overcome to succeed in Nashville.

Pride with Trisha Yearwood, Bill Anderson, and Ricky Skaggs. Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images.

In a 2006 interview, he told The Guardian, "People are so hung up on skin. They're always asking 'Why do you look like us and sound like them?' or 'Why do you look them and sound like us?'"

His rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is notable today for how un-notable it was.

These days, performances of America's national anthem at the big game are known for soaring leaps, dazzling melodic flourishes, and notes in the ionosphere. Pride just sings the damn song.

It's pretty striking.

After making Super Bowl history on Jan. 13, 1974, Pride's career endured. He continues to tour to this day, at age 77.

Watch the rare video of Pride's groundbreaking performance below.

(The national anthem starts around 1:40 — Pride sings "America the Beautiful" first):

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