Yesterday, the East Room of the White House, the same chamber where Barack Obama held his first, sobering presidential press conference just a week prior, was transformed—hosting Stevie Wonder in concert, in advance of his receiving the 2nd annual Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Library of Congress. Obama is known to be a huge fan—using the song on the campaign trail and inviting Wonder to play before his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver. Legends and fans like India.Arie, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall gathered to fete the man who reportedly brought the president and his wife, Michelle, together. From the pool report:
[Obama] called Stevie Wonder’s music “the soundtrack of my youth,” saying he found in it “peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times.” He then mirrored his wife’s comments, saying: “I think it’s fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship.”
Wonder played a full set of his hits, including trailside staple “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and kept it real by snickering in his remarks: “Maybe I’ll be a part of creating some more of those babies.”
I’m told the show was a hot ticket among White House staffers, only some of whom got to peep into the epic performance. PBS recorded the whole thing for posterity—which you can watch here. This event follows on the heels of Earth, Wind and Fire showing up to play for the National Governor’s Association dinner last week—and is a far cry from the Yitzhak Perlmans and Toby Keiths who performed at the behest of Obama’s predecessors. Who knew the White House could hold so much soul?
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.