The Super Bowl: a history of musical halftime shows

Madonna joins Up With People, Disney dancers, Prince, U2 and The Who as big game entertainment
Madonna joins Up With People, Disney dancers, Prince, U2 and The Who as big game entertainment (Image credit: Chad Ryan/NewSport/Corbis)

With an expected viewing audience upwards of 110 million, the Super Bowl is a big, big show all right But it's still dwarfed by other "football" matches like the World Cup, which last year reached an estimated 700 million viewers.

One thing is certain, however: if you want to hit a captive, tortillas-and-chicken-wings-eating crowd with some new music, the Super Bowl is a slam-dunk opportunity. Oh, wait, wrong sport. But you know what we mean.

This year, Madonna performs at XLVI - and according to rumor, her set will feature guest appearances by M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, LMFAO and Cee Lo Green. The Material Woman's, uh, Girl's performance follows recent gridiron gigs by the Black Eyed Peas, Paul McCartney, Prince, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and U2. Oh, and Janet Jackson - how could we forget Janet Jackson?

While Super Bowl halftime shows might be regarded by some as mainstream - let's face it, you're never going to see Cat Power on the 50 yard line - the truth is, they were a whole lot worse back in the day. We're talking marching bands, Mouseketeers and the like.

The following is a brief video look at the development of Super Bowl halftime shows over the years. Prepare to be stunned.

Super Bowl VII, 1973, featuring the University Of Michigan Marching Band, Woody Herman, Andy Williams

Super Bowl XI, 1977, The Mousetekeers

Super Bowl XIV, 1980, Up With People

Super Bowl XVI, 1982, Up With People

Super Bowl XVIII, 1984, Disney dancers

Super Bowl XXI, 1987, Disney, various performers

Super Bowl XXVII, 1993, Michael Jackson

Super Bowl XXXI, 1997, The Blues Brothers

Super Bowl XXXV, 2001, Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Mark J Blige

Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002, U2

Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, P Diddy, Kid Rock

Super Bowl XLI, 2007, Prince

Super Bowl XLIII, 2009, Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band

Super Bowl XLIV, 2010, The Who

Super Bowl XLV, 2011, The Black Eyes Peas, Usher, Slash

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.