Over the years, Aretha Franklin was one singer consistently in demand to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a big sporting event. If Aretha was there, most often accompanying her voice on the piano, the moment was memorable, even if the athletic competition was not.
Just look at the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and Minnesota Vikings in 2016 in Detroit, where Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, lived. She delivered an anthem that was by turns gospel-inspired, soulful and passionate. This one happened to take 4 minutes 35 seconds and was catapulted into Thanksgiving Day lore.
“Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Aretha Franklin,” the Lions tweeted. “Aretha was a groundbreaker and an icon whose legacy will live on forever.”
She stole the show that day, with CBS breaking down the time of possession for the Lions, Vikings and the singer.
Franklin also belted out the anthem before a Super Bowl at Ford Field. She was joined by Aaron Neville and Dr. John before Super Bowl XL in 2006 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.
There was an NBA Finals appearance involving Detroit’s Pistons, too.
Franklin did the honors before Game 5 against the Lakers in 2004. Former Pistons star Isiah Thomas remembered that Thursday, tweeting: “Rest In Peace dear friend, I will remember your wisdom, laughter and music you gave us. #aintnoway #natuaralwoman #sayalittleprayerforyou.”
She performed for the Tigers, too, including before Game 3 of the 2001 American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers remembered her Thursday on the scoreboard at Comerica Park.
Of course, she was also known for her stirring version of “America the Beautiful,” too, and she delivered a memorable version at WrestleMania 23 in 2007 at Ford Field.
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