Mary J. Blige will sing national anthem at Derby

Singer Mary J. Blige sings the U.S. national anthem before the NBA All-Star basketball game Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla. © AP photo by Chris O'Meara.

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After presenting the Star-Spangled Banner in a country and pop voice the past few years, the Kentucky Derby will take a soulful turn before this year’s Run for the Roses.  Mary J. Blige will sing the national anthem around 5:10 p.m. May 5 in a performance that will be carried live on the national broadcast of the Derby on NBC.

The Derby only recently joined the trend of top national recording artists performing the anthem, previously relying on the University of Louisville band to play the piece on Derby Day. Previous performers of the Star-Spangled Banner have included country stars Leann Rimes in 2009, the first year of anthem singers, and Rascal Flatts the following year. Last year’s singer was 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

Mary J. Blige, 41, has been a major force in hip hop and R&B in the 20 years since the release of her hit album What’s the 411? In addition, she has enjoyed an active film and TV

career including the upcoming Rock of Ages, a musical made up of 1980s hits, co-starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.  She also performed the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game in February.

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