White House celebrates the blues

Feb. 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An all-star lineup headed by B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck helped U.S. President Barack Obama celebrate the blues at the White House Tuesday.

"In Performance at The White House: Red, White and Blues" was the most recent in a series of events celebrating various genres of music. The lineup of performers included Trombone Shorty, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Shemekia Copeland and Gary Clark Jr. -- performing a set that included "Let the Good Times Roll," "The Thrill Is Gone," "St. James Infirmary," and "Sweet Home Chicago" -- under the musical direction of Booker T. Jones, best known as the leader of Booker T. and the MG's.

Speaking to an audience on the eve of Mardi Gras, the first day of the Christian season of Lent, the president told an audience in the East Room the blues "is music with humble beginnings -- roots in slavery and segregation, a society that rarely treated black Americans with the dignity and respect that they deserved."

"The blues bore witness to these hard times," Obama said. "And like so many of the men and women who sang them, the blues refused to be limited by the circumstances of their birth."

The president noted that the blues paved the way for rock 'n' roll, R&B and hip-hop."

"It inspired artists and audiences around the world," he said. "And as tonight's performers will demonstrate, the blues continue to draw a crowd. Because this music speaks to something universal. No one goes through life without both joy and pain, triumph and sorrow. The blues gets all of that, sometimes with just one lyric or one note."

Blues aside, the occasion was a happy one for Obama, who said although it is frustrating for him that the Secret Service won't let him just go for a walk or a drive, "there are other nights where B.B. King and Mick Jagger come over to your house to play for a concert. So I guess things even out a little bit."

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