The Super Bowl halftime show has a rich history, starting from its humble beginnings where university marching bands provided the entertainment, to its current status as a major cultural spectacle. This list includes notable firsts and significant events, such as the first major star performer, the non-payment policy for performers, and the infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004. Factors that changed the show forever, like Michael Jackson’s 1993 performance, and quirky moments like the viral Left Shark, are also highlighted. It chronicles the youngest and oldest performers, record-breaking viewership numbers, and the band that has appeared most frequently.
1. The First Halftime Show was Mostly University Marching Bands
Many might find it hard to believe, but the Super Bowl halftime show wasn’t always the flashy, star-studded spectacle it is today. In fact, for the first few Super Bowls, the halftime entertainment consisted mostly of university marching bands. The inaugural Super Bowl halftime show in 1967, showcased the University of Arizona and Grambling State University marching bands. Over time, the halftime show has evolved to become a major cultural event featuring some of the biggest names in music.
2. The First Major Star was Ella Fitzgerald in 1972
The first major star to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show was Ella Fitzgerald in 1972. Though famous for jazz music, she performed material from her recent albums that explored other genres at Super Bowl VI. She was joined by other noteworthy performers including Carol Channing, Al Hirt, and the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team.
3. No Performer is Paid to Play
Despite its status as one of the most-watched TV events in the United States, performers at the Super Bowl halftime show do not get paid. The National Football League does not pay appearance fees, though it does cover all the costs related to the production, which can run into millions of dollars. The artists perform for the global exposure that the event provides.
4. Michael Jackson’s Performance Changed the Halftime Show Forever
Michael Jackson’s halftime show performance in 1993 changed the event forever. Before this, the event struggled to retain viewership during the halftime break. But the King of Pop’s performance saw ratings surge and thereafter, the NFL began inviting major pop stars to entertain during halftime. Jackson’s show remains the most watched in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows.
5. The “Wardrobe Malfunction”
Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 marked a pivotal moment in halftime show history when Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were involved in a “wardrobe malfunction” on stage. The incident sparked widespread controversy and led to significant changes in live broadcast practices. Since then, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has imposed a five-second delay on all live broadcasts.
6. The Oldest Performer was Tony Bennett
At the age of 68, Tony Bennett remains the oldest performer to have graced the stage at a Super Bowl halftime show. He was featured in the show for Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 where he performed a duet with Patti LaBelle. They were accompanied by the Miami Sound Machine.
7. Left Shark Became an Internet Sensation
During Katy Perry’s halftime show in 2015, one of her shark backup dancers (later dubbed “Left Shark” for its position on stage) gained internet fame due to their seemingly uncoordinated dancing. The goofy dancing of Left Shark quickly went viral, turning the costumed dancer into an overnight internet sensation.
8. Record-Breaking Viewership with Katy Perry
The most-watched halftime show to date is Katy Perry’s performance at Super Bowl XLIX. More than 118.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Perry’s captivating performance, which featured guest appearances from Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott.
9. The Youngest Performer was Justin Bieber
At age 16, Justin Bieber remains the youngest performer to have appeared on the Super Bowl halftime stage. Bieber, along with Slash and Usher, was part of the Super Bowl XLV halftime show in 2011. The teen pop star performed his hit song “Baby” to a roaring crowd.
10. The Most Frequent Performer is Up With People
Believe it or not, the most frequent performers at Super Bowl halftime shows are not well-known pop stars but a band called Up With People. This group promotes internationalism and has appeared at halftime five times, more than any other performer. Their performances showcased upbeat pop music interwoven with messages of peace, love, and understanding.