From 1967-1990, the Super Bowl halftime shows were relatively low-key, with the headliners usually being college marching bands and drill teams.
There were a few exceptions, Ella Fittzgerald's tribute to Louis Armstrong in Super Bowl VI, or Mercer Ellington's tribute to his father, Duke, during Super Bowl IX.
But in 1993, NFL officials decided that they needed to find a way to keep fans interested during halftime, so they booked only one performer for halftime of Super Bowl XXVII: Michael Jackson.
Ever since, the NFL has had big name artists perform solo and duets during pre-game ceremonies and half time, including performances from Diana Ross, the Blues Brothers, ZZ Top, Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins, Toni Braxton, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears.
Although these performances were good, there are five that have been legendary:
5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Super Bowl XLII
Although I have never been a fan of Tom Petty's voice live, he exceeded my expectations. He started off by getting the crowd going with "American Girl," followed by "Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'," and "Runnin' Down a Dream."
4. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Super Bowl XLIII
After hearing Conan O'Brien rip late night side-kick Max Weinberg, the drummer for the E-Street Band, about taking the whole week off to practice with Bruce Springsteen ("Who needs a whole week to practice 'Born in the U.S.A?!?"), I was excited. The Boss came full of energy, but quickly used it all. By the end, he was unable to hit his higher notes in tune. Regardless, his energy got the crowd in Tampa rocking, as he played "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born to Run," "Working on a Dream," and "Glory Days."
3. U2, Super Bowl XXXVI
In the first Super Bowl after the 9/11 attacks, there couldn't be a better selection then U2. Bono, one of the greatest humanitarians who has ever lived, lit up the crowd with "Beautiful Day," as he walked through the crowd to the stage. U2 then played "Where the Streets Have No Name," while projecting the names of all who were lost during the 9/11 attacks behind them.
2. Paul McCartney, Super Bowl XXXIX
McCartney was flawless. He opened with "Drive My Car," and "Get Back," while playing his signature lefty bass. He moved to piano and finished with "Live and Let Die," and "Hey Jude." Not many people could get away with playing a song as slow as "Hey Jude" at the Super Bowl.
1. Michael Jackson, Super Bowl XXVII
Undoubtedly the best halftime show yet. The show begins with Michael being catapulted from backstage, then holding a pose for well over a minute before removing his sunglasses. He performed a short medley of some of his greatest hits, before finishing with "Heal the World," with help from a choir of 3,500 children.