Things got soulful at Churchill Downs when Harry Connick, Jr. sang the National Anthem at the 2017 Kentucky Derby. His rendition of the patriotic number surely made fans thankful that the Derby began including the National Anthem in the annual day of horse-racing and competitive hat-donning back in 2009. Connick lived up to his title as a Grammy Award-winning singer with a moving, slow version of the song that had the crowd on their feet. If you want to relive the moment over and over again, you can watch the video of Connick at the Derby below. There's a reason this man is known for making people swoon. He even makes patriotism sound sexy.
Luck was definitely on the singer's side after a surprise downfall left Lady Antebellum upstaged by the weather during their 2016 performance. Despite a chilly start to the day, it was nothing but blue skies for Connick, and the jazz singer commanded the audience's full attention. Of course, he's no stranger to belting out the National Anthem in front of a crowd. He also sang the song at the 1992 Super Bowl, and he brought down the house down there too.
Connick joins a list of singers to sing the anthem at the Derby that includes Josh Groban, the aforementioned Lady Antebellum, and LeAnn Rimes. All due respect to the singer's fellow performers, but his take on the American classic may be one of the best ones yet — even though reactions on Twitter were mixed.
While some viewers loved Connick's unique take, calling it "very classy" and "smooth," others were not feeling the singer's rendition. A few fans even said it was a complete miss. In my humble opinion, Connick's quieter version was a welcome departure from the usual belting performances. By slowing the anthem down, Connick infused it with even more soul and meaning. When he started hitting the high notes, you see the crowd was openly singing along. It was a wonderful way to officially kick off the race, even if his performance proved to be a divisive one.
The actual race may be short, but the Kentucky Derby is a weekend-long event for the guests. I suspect hearing Connick sing will be a highlight for more than a few attendees. His smooth vocals went down as easy as a mint julep on a warm Kentucky day. Next year's National Anthem performer has a tough act to follow.