Chicago Sun-Times

Jim Cornelison on last few days: "It's been nuts"

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Jim Cornelison isn't exactly an overnight sensation.

This is his fourth season as the full-time National Anthem singer for the Blackhawks, who made a brilliant championship run last season to win the Stanley Cup.

But Cornelison said he was overwhelmed by the response to his performance at Sunday's NFC Divisional Playoff game at Soldier Field. A YouTube clip of his performance just topped 1 million page views.

"It's been nuts," Cornelison told me this morning. "As soon as I sang it, I don't know how many texts and Facebook messages I got."

He was touched by the comments, including a woman who reached out all the way from Germany.

"I was like, 'Whoa. This is different,' " he said.

But here's the scoop: Cornelison wasn't 100 percent.

He's not sure what it is -- maybe allergies, he said? -- but he's been battling it for weeks.

Then he sounded like an athlete.

"Who wants to go on national TV and not be at your best? But that's part of being a professional singer," he said. "Unless you're flat on your back, you got to go do it."

He hopes to get better by Sunday, when he'll sing the "Star Spangled Banner" before the Bears and Green Bay Packers vie for the Halas Trophy, awarded to the winner of the NFC. After initially booking former American Idol winner Lee DeWyze, who is from Mount Prospect, the NFL deferred to the wishes of the Bears and the team's fans and made a switch. Cornelison will sing the anthem again, while DeWyze performs at halftime.

"It's about the fans, and they love the anthem when Jim does it, and this is the biggest championship game ever, so we want it to start right," said Bears spokesman Scott Hagel, "and we're thrilled to have a hometown talent like Lee Dewyze perform at halftime."

Cornelison has performed with Placido Domingo, and he's performed at major venues like the San Francisco Opera and major events like the Winter Classic and Stanley Cup games.

And while he'll be amped up for Sunday's NFC title game, Cornelison has another big date coming up: Tuesday night at the United Center, when his mother will see him sing the anthem for the first time.

"I don't know why it took me so long to think about it," he said. "I see the vets, and I said, 'I got to get my mom down here.' "

Kathyrn Cornelison, 88, was a nurse in World War II.

"It's huge for her," he said.

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5 Comments

Nothing against the young man from Mount Prospect but Jim really got the crowd going.

The young man you are referring too, Lee DeWyze and his band were the house band for the Chicago Huddle on ABC7 (not sure that the program is still on but the website is still up and mentions him). Lee is a die-hard Bears Fan, and is liked by Bears Kicker Robbie Gould, you know the best kicker in the NFL. In a way I am almost happy this happened, so that if the Bears lose, Lee will not be blamed. If they win, Lee will be very happy. Win Win for Lee, but I still think he got the short end of the stick. I hope the Bears fans give him a listen and are respectful, and that they broadcast the half-time show on TV.

I think how this was handled was tacky on the Bears' part. Pushing Lee DeWyze out of his promised spot, when he's lived in the Chicago area forever and has been a lifelong Bears, shows no respect for his feelings. I'm sure he was looking forward to sining the NA for his hometown team, and now he's had that chance taken from him based on supersitition.

I have no problem with the team and fans wanting Cornelison back for the NA, but to push aside someone else in such an ugly manner is awful.

As always, Lee was grateful and gracious. His mama raised him right.

I would say Jim wasn't exactly a good luck charm that day for the Bears or Blackhawks. Might show fans not to be so superstitious. Glad Lee still had an opportunity to sing at the game.

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