New York - Motown legend Gladys Knight will sing the US national anthem prior to next month's Super Bowl in her hometown Atlanta, the National Football League (NFL) announced on Thursday.
The performance by the Grammy winner - famous for soulful hits including "Midnight Train to Georgia" - comes as controversy brews over the high-profile halftime show performance, and the league's treatment of players who protest on the sidelines during the anthem.
The league has confirmed that US pop-rock band Maroon 5 will play the coveted gig - with guest appearances by rappers Big Boi - half of the acclaimed rap duo Outkast - and Travis Scott.
The Super Bowl is frequently the most-watched television broadcast of the year, with an audience of more than 100 million Americans.
But a slew of stars including Cardi B, Jay-Z and Rihanna reportedly rejected offers to play the show in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not played in the league since 2016.
Kaepernick spearheaded kneeling protests during pre-game performances of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to draw attention to racial and social injustice along with police brutality.
The NFL's booking of Knight appeared an effort to placate fans uneasy that a mostly white California pop band was headlining the Super Bowl spectacle in Atlanta, the southern capital of hip-hop.
"I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country," the 74-year-old Knight said in a statement.
In a clip promoting her appearance, she notes progress by recalling that she played segregated shows in the past, saying, "I hope that this anthem will touch people in a different way."
"We've been singing it forever," she said. "But this time I would hope that they would feel it so deeply that it would lift them to a higher place. That's what I feel when I sing the song."
But many are still calling for artists to boycott the event.
Chicago hip hop artist and activist Common said Scott "is doing what he's gotta do," but added, "I wish he wouldn't, to be honest."