WASHINGTON (AP) — Elton John said Friday that he had played in some beautiful venues, but the stage in front of the White House, under a huge tent on a perfect fall night, was “probably the icing on the cake.”
He then opened the show with ‘Your Song’, his first major international hit.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the 75-year-old singer, talking about his activism, the power of his music and his universal kindness. The event was dreamed up and paid for by A+E and the History Channel.
“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote: ‘Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can emerge and hope and history coincide,'” Biden said. “Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been this tidal wave, a tidal wave to help people rise up and make hope and history rhyme.”
At the end of the show, Biden surprised John with the National Humanities Medal, for his songbook and his long legacy of advocacy.
Through tears, John said he was “amazing and humbled”.
The 2,000-strong guest list included teachers, nurses, frontline workers and LGBTQ advocates, as well as former first lady Laura Bush, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, education activist Malala Yousafzai and Jeanne White-Ginder, activist for AIDS and Ryan White’s mother, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.
The evening, in fact, was called “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a reference to the Biden poem quoted by Ireland’s Heaney.
It was John’s first White House concert since appearing with Stevie Wonder at a 1998 state dinner honoring British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At the age of 75, John is on a farewell tour after performing for more than 50 years.
The show came about after A+E Networks and the History Channel, which footed the bill, asked the White House and John if they would be open to a collaboration honoring “everyday history makers” as well as John himself, according to with the people. people familiar with the discussions spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
It’s unclear if the show will air. John has worked with A+E in the past on its global HIV/AIDS charity, the Elton John Foundation, which has raised more than $525 million to fight the virus worldwide.
John will be in town on Saturday playing Nationals Park as part of his latest tour. He opened the final leg of his North American farewell series in Philadelphia in July.
The president and first lady are big fans. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir that he sang “Crocodile Rock” to his two young boys as he walked them to school and again later to son Bo before he died of cancer at age 46.
“I started singing the lyrics to Beau, quietly, so that only the two of us could hear it,” Biden wrote. “Bo didn’t open his eyes, but I could see through my tears that he was smiling.”
John played the song on Friday, saying someone told him Biden was singing it.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John’s. He tried to get John to perform at his inauguration in 2017, but John refused, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate for a Brit to play at the inauguration of an American president.
The White House insisted Friday’s show was not an attempt to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and has often featured John’s music — including “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” — on charts. playing it before the rally all these years. Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “rocket man” for his record of missile tests.
John performed “Tiny Dancer” on Friday, to thunderous applause.
Sir Elton — knighted in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II — has sold more than 300 million records worldwide, played more than 4,000 concerts in 80 countries and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time, 1997’s Renewal of ‘Candle In The Wind’. ” to praise Princess Diana, which sold 33 million copies.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.