The East Room of the White House was transformed into an intimate blues club on Tuesday night for a concert featuring blues all-stars of the past, present and future.
The surprise performance by President Obama came at the end of the playlist when the blues ensemble was singing “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Buddy Guy prodded the president, saying he’d heard that the president sang part of an Al Green tune recently, and adding, “You gotta keep it up.”
“Come on… Baby don’t you want to go,” the president sang, handing off the mic to B.B. King momentarily, and then taking it back adding “Sweet Home Chicago” at the end.
Obama said sometimes there are downsides to being the president. “You can’t just go for a walk, for example. And then there are the times that more than make up for all those frustrations,” he said, like Tuesday night, when Jagger, King, Jeff Beck and other musical giants came by the house to sing the blues.
“This music speaks to something universal,” Obama declared. “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. ”
Longtime Rolling Stones lead singer, Mick Jagger, got the president and his wife out of their seats, swaying and clapping to the music.
Obama was clearly savoring the moment, closing his eyes at times and nodding his head as he lip-synced the words.
The president rose at the end to introduce the ensemble as the “White House Blues All-Stars” for the final song of the night, “Sweet Home Chicago.”
“For Michelle and me,” the president said, “there’s no blues like the song our artists have chosen to close with — the blues from our hometown.”
With that, the ensemble wrapped up the evening with “Sweet Home Chicago.”
The lineup for Tuesday’s concert spanned multiple generations, from legends like BB King and Buddy Guy to young faces, Trombone Shorty, Shemekia Copeland, Keb Mo and Jeff Beck, among others, whose style blends hip hop, contemporary soul and indie rock. Actress Taraji P. Henson was on hand as the evening’s program host.
The blues concert will be part of the “In Performance at the White House” series that airs Monday night on the Public Broadcasting Service – designed to recognize Black History Month.