The White House got a few extra helpings of soul yesterday as President Obama welcomed some of music's finest for a tribute to Motown Records. The special concert was a part of ongoing celebrations of Black History Month, and Obama took note of the Motown sound not merely out of personal fondness, but in honor of what he called "the soundtrack to the Civil Rights era."
Tributes resounded to some of the legendary Detroit label's best-loved classics, performed by an all-star cast that included John Legend, Jamie Foxx, Seal, Jordin Sparks, Sheryl Crow, and a favorite of the young Obama girls, Nick Jonas. Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson headlined the evening.
Legend, Seal, Foxx, and Jonas kicked things off with a rollicking medley in the East Room for an audience that included a toe-tapping President and First Lady, as well as Motown founder Barry Gordy. Their set included hits like "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
Later Jordin Sparks, Natasha Bedingfield, and Ledisi channeled The Supremes for "Stop! In the Name of Love." The show's finale included a duet between Robinson and Crow for "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and two crowd-pleasing performances by Stevie Wonder of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Dancin' in the Street."
Throughout the evening, hosted by Jamie Foxx in multitasking mode, special attendees testified to the sustained impact Motown has had on their lives and the country. Michelle Obama took note of the music's lasting legacy.
"There wouldn't be an Usher if there wasn't a Smokey Robinson. You know, there wouldn't be an Alicia Keys without a Gladys Knight," she said.
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