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."


Ari said...

I have thought that Mr Obama ( born in Kenya) has many other things to do first than celebrate in "his" White House. Unemployment in U.S. is enormous and the poorest people in U.S. have no any social security at all. That masai-warrior is wasting billions and billions U.S. people's money to warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. He seems to be just alike than Mugabe, Idi Amin, Mubarak or Gaddafhi. Why has he not similar principles like normal people have: "First duty and celebration afterwards". That is why he has not done anything so far.

northshorewoman said...

Hello Ari,

Of course, Obama is busy with politics and war, but I also believe he is more than just one-sided. I think his actions on the political, economic and social fronts leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, I think it is really important that he is trying to include culture - the diversity of cultures that is America -- as part of the runnings of governance. Usually stately functions related to the arts has focused on more mainstream dominant culture people's contributions and histories. I think what Obama is doing with these music performances is important to how we imagine how we can move forward. It's a small step, but I believe worthwhile.

Merche Pallarés said...

Amazingly I had time to watch the three songs. The second one, has beautiful, sad, very moving lyrics.
I won't go into ARI's and your debate... Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

MP, yes, you are busy with your tours. I wish you the best in your travels.

Ari said...

A civilized society does not exist without culture. If all the money goes to satanic warfare, it is the end of cultural activities as well.

northshorewoman said...

Yes, when will our governments stop funding the war machine and turn money and attention to the art machine?