By Brian Ives
There’s nothing more American than football, and there’s no event bigger than the Super Bowl. It’s more than just a game, and it even transcends the status of a sporting event: it’s the biggest entertainment event of the year.
The entire world watches the game, and as the quintessential American event, you’d think that the talent booked to play the Halftime show would also be American. And often, that’s the case: Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas have all headlined halftime.
But frequently, the NFL has looked to artists who grew up with a sport that’s called football (but what we refer to as “soccer”). This season, Coldplay got the call. And here’s a list of other big names who got to step on the hallowed gridiron on the biggest day of the football calendar, but who may not have grown up observing the holiest of days, Super Bowl Sunday.
Four-plus decades after the Beatles took the U.S. by storm via their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, drawing an estimated 73 million viewers (at the time a record for US television) Sir Paul brought his solo band to play a few Fab Four tunes (and his solo classic “Live and Let Die”) to halftime at Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.
In their early years, the Stones exposed Americans to the most American of all art forms: the blues. As part of the famed “British Invasion” they were part of a crop of bands who played songs from the Chess Records catalog to an audience that was largely unfamiliar with the genre. So it’s fair that they were finally invited to play America’s most high profile stage, decades later at Super Bowl XL in 2006.
No one in the Who ever claimed to be a big football fan. But they did wear football gear on the cover of their 1974 rarities collection Odds and Sods. But they didn’t need helmets when they performed at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
The ’00s haven’t been as great for rock bands as the preceding decades, but in February of 2002, just months after 9/11, U2 seemed to be one of the only acts in music who could address what America was feeling, and their Super Bowl XXXVI half time show, paying tribute to those who were killed in the attacks, hit all the right notes and was probably the most poignant one ever.
M.I.A. was one of Madonna‘s many guests at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, performing “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” And, in the second most infamous unplanned incident in half time show, she flipped the bird at the camera during the performance, leading to a lawsuit with the NFL, although they later settled out of court.