WASHINGTON (AP) — Elton John said Friday he has played in some beautiful venues, but the stage in front of the White House is “probably the icing on the cake” on a perfect fall night, under a giant tent.
He then launched the show with his first major international hit, “Your Song.”
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, welcomed the 75-year-old singer, talking about her activism, the power of her music, and all-around goodness. The event was imagined and paid for by A+E and the History Channel.
“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I’m quoting, ‘Once in a lifetime, the tide of justice longed for can rise and hope and history rhyme,'” Biden said. “Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been such. a tidal wave that will help him stand up and rhyme hope and history.”
At the end of the show, Biden surprised John with the National Humanities Medal for his songbook and long legacy of advocacy.
Bathed, John said he was “surprised and humbled.”
The 2,000-person 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 AIDS activist and Ryan White’s mother, Jeanne White-Ginder. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.
In fact, the night was called “A Night that Rhymes with Hope and History,” in reference to the Biden poem quoted by the Irishman Heaney.
This was John’s first White House concert since performing with Stevie Wonder at a state dinner honoring British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998. John, 75, is embarking on a farewell tour after performing for more than 50 years.
The show came together after the bill-paying A+E Networks and History Channel asked the White House and John if they would be ready for a collaboration that would honor “everyday history writers” and people, according to John himself. He is familiar with the discussions, speaking with the AP on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal planning.
It is unclear whether the series will air or not. John has worked with A+E at the Elton John Foundation, a global HIV/AIDS charity that has raised more than $525 million in donations to fight the virus worldwide in the past.
John will play at Nationals Park on Saturday as part of his final tour. It opened the last leg of its North American farewell series in Philadelphia in July.
The President and First Lady are big fans. In a memoir from 2017, Biden wrote his two teenage sons to sing “Crocodile Rock” on the way to school and then to his son Beau before he died of cancer at age 46.
“I started saying Beau’s words quietly so just the two of us could hear,” Biden said. “Beau didn’t open her eyes, but I could see her smiling through my own tears.”
John played the song on Friday and said someone told him Biden used to sing it.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John. He tried to get John to perform at his inauguration in 2017, but John refused, saying he thought it was inappropriate for an Englishman to play at the inauguration of an American president.
The White House insisted that Friday’s demonstration was not an effort to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and has often featured John’s music on pre-rally playlists over the years, including “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.” Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “rocket man” because of his record of missile tests.
John played “Tiny Dancer” on Friday and received a huge round of applause.
Sir Elton – Queen Elizabeth II in 1998. He was knighted by Elizabeth – sold over 300 million records worldwide, performed more than 4,000 concerts in 80 countries, and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time in 1997 with his rework of Candle In The Wind. To praise Princess Diana, who sold 33 million copies.
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