Blackhawks' anthem singer to serenade Soldier Field

January 21, 2011 4:49:38 AM PST
He is the voice Blackhawks fans know and love.

This Sunday, Jim Cornelison will again sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Soldier Field showdown. Many say his voice is the inspiration the Bears need, just like last week.

The man who usually sings America's song indoors for a cold-weather sport -- a classically-trained singer who came to Chicago in 1995 and worked with the Lyric Opera -- has a track record inspiring a fan-base -- and players -- to chase a championship.

"Both are incredibly exciting," Cornelison said. "The playoff atmosphere is comparable to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You walk into the building and you can feel that energy. You're just tingling on the hairs of your skin."

The 6'6" performer, known as "the Commander," says singing at Soldier Field will be a challenge -- even with his experience from last week -- as he belts out America's song before the biggest Bears-Packers game of all time.

Like the athletes he hopes to "get jacked up," he says focus is the key to meeting that challenge.

"I'll sing a little bit beforehand, stay away from certain foods like peanut butter and dairy and things like that, you know. I isolate myself, especially the half hour before," said Cornelison.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and Coach Lovie Smith have praised Cornelison's work, saying it set the tone for last week's quick start against the Seahawks.

For Bears safety Chris Harris, the Commander's commitment to America through song became another game preparation tool.

"From the National Anthem from Dan, it will be electric. You saw how the fans respond to him when he sings the National Anthem, so I think that is going to set the tone right there," Harris said.

The Bears asked the NFL to install Cornelison as anthem singer and relegate Chicago's 2010 American Idol winner, Lee DeWyze, to halftime entertainment duties -- this after DeWyze touted his Bears gig on Twitter earlier this week.

Cornelison hopes there are no hard feelings.

"We were pulling for lee because he's a Chicago guy. And I'm really glad it worked out for both of us," said Cornelison.

Cornelison returned Tuesday from a corporate singing gig in Florida and has a bit of a cold. Since last week, YouTube video of his anthem has had over a million hits -- and he says he's overrun with Facebook "friend" requests.

And, get this -- on Sunday Cornelison sings the anthem twice. First for the Blackhawks-Flyers game at 11:30 a.m., then before the 2 p.m. kickoff at Soldier Field.