US President Barack Obama has hosted his final musical event at the White House, saying he felt a “bit of bittersweetness” at the culmination of one of his and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “favorite” traditions.
Obama and his wife Michelle began the annual event eight years ago to celebrate music that has helped shape the US.
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“While much of the music that you will hear this evening -gospel, R&B, rap – is rooted in the African-American experience. It’s not just black music. This is an essential part of the American experience, it’s a mirror to who we are, and a reminder of who we can be,” Obama, 55, said.
“That’s what American music is all about. And generations from now, I hope it’s the story that the White House will continue to tell,” he said at BET’s “Love and Happiness: A Musical Experience” last night.
Recalling past performances by legendary musicians, Obama said it was no secret that he and Michelle loved music and tried to share their passion with the rest of the country.
“So this has been one of our favorite traditions, and it’s with a little bit of bittersweetness that this is our final musical evening as president and first lady,” Obama said.
“Ever since 1801, when the US Marine Band played the first reception hosted by John and Abigail Adams, live performances have always been a part of life at the White House. We’ve had Bob Dylan and we’ve had Jennifer Hudson. Gloria Estefan and Los Lobos. Aretha, Patti, Smokey. I’ve had Paul McCartney singing ‘Michelle’ to Michelle and Stevie singing ‘Happy Birthday’,” he said.
Terming as “amazing” the Marine Band, Obama, whose second term as the US President ends in January next year, said he would miss the military band.
“By the way, another perk that I will really miss is our amazing Marine Band. Not only can they play anything – and I mean anything. I’ve seen them play with Yo-Yo Ma and then jam with B B King. But they’re also active duty. So they are not just astounding musicians, but they’re also protecting this country,” Obama said.
“Michelle and I just love them. We cannot thank them enough for their outstanding work. Anyway, you might walk around the White House and see the fancy chandeliers and the paintings of George and Martha, and you may think that the musical performances before we got here were a little stuffy,” he said.
It is true they weren’t quite like our musical events. But the truth is that throughout history, the White House has celebrated the new and the innovative – it’s even been a little edgy once in a while, he added.
Obama said president Chester A Arthur was ahead of his time in inviting the all-black Fisk Jubilee Singers and their performance moved him to tears.
Teddy Roosevelt welcomed Scott Joplin, because his daughter wanted to hear “that new jazz”. And then guests of the Kennedys apparently did the twist in the East Room – which may not sound like a big deal to you, but that was sort of the twerking of their time and was “bold”, he said.
“There will also be no twerking tonight. At least not by me,” Obama said.