Paul McCartney is honoured by President Obama at the White House

The report from White House pool reporter Christina Bellantoni continues:

The First Couple clapped and smiled throughout the evening. Malia Obama also seemed to be enjoying herself, especially when the Jonas Brothers performed “‘Drive My Car’.”

Stevie Wonder played “‘We Can Work It Out’” – twice. He stopped half-way through the first time because his harmonica wasn’t at the ready. When he played the harmonica solo the second time the crowd clapped and Obama was nodding.

Jerry Seinfeld made a joke about so many prizes, and quipped about the Nobel Prize. He also called McCartney an “unparalleled artist” and said he makes “the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.” He joked about some of the Beatles lyrics and cracked some jokes about marriage after which the first lady laughed and clapped.

As Lang Lang performed a piano solo “Celebration,” the president and first lady held hands.

Elvis Costello offered brief remarks, telling the several hundred gathered there that music “is often an us-against-them proposition.” He said that the song he would play, “‘Penny Lane’,” is about a place near where his mother came from, and that when “this thing of wonder and beauty came on the radio,” his dad, mom and cat “all stood up and took notice.”

He talked of the “beautiful way that Paul’s songs united us,” adding, “thank you, and I love you and thank you for your songs and your friendship.”

Big cheers erupted from the audience after the trumpet portion in the song, and Costello gave the player a generous “Sgt. Pepper” shoutout – introducing him as “Matthew Harding of the president’s own United States Marine Band.”

Dave Grohl told the crowd he’s a DC native and has played “every club, every basement, every arena and every stadium.” But, he said: “All of that has nothing on Paul: You’re definitely my hero. And Mister President, you’re definitely my other hero.”

He then played “Band on the Run,” by McCartney during the Wings era.

Obama nodded his head to the beat, and I’ve gotta say, Grohl rocked it.

Pool was led in after Grohl as Stevie Wonder and McCartney performed a duet of “Ebony/Ivory.” As we were led in we saw there was a bar and some chafing dishes set up in the foyer for what I presume is a post-concert reception.

Obama’s remarks will be out via transcript in the morning but he said the United States stole McCartney and singled out Pelosi for praise as being a champion of the arts. He said the Beatles “blew the walls down for everybody else” and “changed everything overnight” by appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.” Obama said McCartney and the Beatles “helped to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation.”

They hugged as McCartney came on stage. He held the award as he praised Obama. “Getting this prize would just be good enough, but getting it from THIS president …” he said, to big cheers. He said that even though there are “lots of really difficult issues” in the United States, “You have billions of us who are rooting for you and we know you’re going to come through.”

McCartney also thanked the other artists, saying it was “inspiring” to hear their interpretations of his music.

Then he said he would play a song he’d been “Itching to do at the White House,” adding, “I hope the president will forgive me.” Then launched into a spirited rendition of “Michelle.”

At the end of the song he took a bow and your pool had to leave. As we were wrangled out we heard McCartney joke he’d be “the first guy ever to be punched out by a president,” then start in on “‘Eleanor Rigby’.”

When we got back to the briefing room we saw McCartney joke his daughter Mary once whistled while at the royal ranch. (She was whistling during concert). He then played “Let it be” and “‘Hey Jude’.”

The White House provided us cream programs with a yellow tassel and emblazoned with the presidential seal. It listed the program as “Selections by” the following artists:

Corinne Bailey Rae
Elvis Costello
Dave Grohl
Herbie Hancock
Emmylou Harris
Faith Hill
Jonas Brothers
Lang Lang
Jack White

For the rest of the program:

Emmylou Harris performed “‘For No One’,” which she admitted is a “sad” song. (It is.)
Jack White performed “‘Mother Nature’s Son’.”
Corinne Bailey Rae sang “‘Blackbird’.”
Faith Hill performed “Long and Winding Road

For the record, your pooler’s favorite McCartney-sung Beatles song is “‘Paperback Writer’.”

Obama last year presented the same award to Stevie Wonder.

Some background from the White House: The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.

And details on the broadcast from the Library of Congress: The program, to be taped by WETA Washington, D.C., as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series, will air on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesday, July 28, 2010, at 8 p.m. EDT (check local listings) as “Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song In Performance at the White House.”

Christina Bellantoni
White House reporter
Paul McCartney live: Foro Sol, Mexico City, Mexico
Paul McCartney live: RDS Arena, Dublin
Also on this day...

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