Saturday, March 5, 2011
back to the 70s with my sisters
John Legend sings Marvin Gaye's "I heard it through the grapevine" in performance at the White House.
You have to hand it to Barack Obama and Michelle. What other presidency has had such a roster of amazing music performed at the White House? The other night, I watched the Motown White House performances on TV, and I was absolutely and unequivocally wowed. Wow. Just wow. Can you imagine any past president throwing a Motown bash at the White House?
As soon as I started watching, I was hooked. I put down all my marking and sat listening, completely overtaken by the incredible talent -- both the songs and the singers, the backup musicians, the organizing brilliance of this production. Thank god there are singers not reduced to the packaged performances of MTV, Much Music, and celebrity culture. It is so refreshing to hear old tunes being sung in new ways. These are the songs I listened to in the 70s with my sisters, and the catchy beats and lyrics of the songs are simply timeless. Here are three of my favorite songs from the night. But I have to say that the entire performance was memorable, simply stunning, such an excellent example of the power of music and vision to create new spaces of wonder and joy and hopefulness.
Natasha Bedingfield, a British singer, belts out Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears." Her performance alone shows that Motown music belongs to the world. Although it is African American music at its roots and heart, it also reaches out to each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. That's one of the enduring appeals of the Motown beat; it is so specifically African American from its historical moment, but so enduring cross-cultural and timeless in its reach.
I'm not even a fan of Cheryl Crow (once a back up singer for Michael Jackson!), but there's no denying that she does a captivating and soulful cover of Jackson's hit "I want you back."