Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Paul McCartney at White House croons "Michelle" to Michelle. Transcript, pool report, guest list


WASHINGTON--Sir Paul McCartney crooned "Michelle" to First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday night, during a White House concert full of stars honoring the former Beatle for winning the Library of Congress Gershwin award.

The Jonas Brothers, favorites of the Obama girls, Malia, 11 and Sasha, 8, performed with a lot of other stars on the program: Corinne Bailey Rae, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, Herbie Hancock, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Lang Lang, Jack White and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The video above is of the gang--with the First Family singing "Hey, Jude."

OBAMA DAUGHTERS BIRTHDAY ALERT: Sasha turns 9 on June 10 and Malia turns 12 on July 4.

The McCartney guests were mainly White House and administration officials and some members of Congress.

At the click: pool report on concert, President Obama's tribute to McCartney transcript, guest list.


BY Christina Bellantoni
Senior reporter
Talking Points Memo

Event basics: Sir Paul McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a star-studded ceremony in the White House East Room. President Obama and his family sat in the first row, surrounded by politicians and big names in music.

News, sort of: Obama mentioned "difficult time" for the Gulf Coast, saying that his thoughts are with friends in an area "so rich in musical heritage." He said it is "herartbreaking" but said the group in the room is committed to help and see the community "made whole again." He said "Part of what gets us through tough times is music" and that there's always a kernel of ourselves "that sings even when times are hard."

Another bit: At the very close of the event after Obama had left the room, McCartney took the mic again and thanked the Library of Congress again for the award. He then said, "After the last eight years, it's great to have a president who knows what a library is."

Other than that as all color, with highlights being of course the music, McCartney's choice of song "Michelle" and some POTUS-FLOTUS hand-holding.Another highlight, during "Hey Jude" at the finale and for the "Na, na, na, na, na, na, na" chorus, McCartney got everyone, including the entire First Family on the stage. They clapped and everyone sang along as he sat himself at the piano.

I've got most of the songs and performers in the report below, but it was hard to see many of the guests since most of the viewing was done on the screen in the briefing room. Pool was led into East Room about 2/3 into the event for Obama's remarks and one song.

At 7:38 p.m., the president and first lady joined the Obama daughters to sit in the front row. Michelle Obama sat to the president's left, and they frequently whispered to one another.

McCartney entered the room after the president, grabbed a guitar and took the stage, declaring, "Welcome to the White House," and then performing "Got to Get You Into My Life." He wore a blue jacket with no tie. When he finished, he joined the president in the front row and sat to his right. They also chatted back and forth most of the evening.
WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel also was in the front row, toward the right near Stevie Wonder. Also spotted: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Marian Robinson, Sen. Dick Durbin. Will send list of attendees as provided by the White House in second report.

FLOTUS wore a short frock that is a color called "blush" and appeared to be made of satin. The designer is Byron Lars, a male designer who bills himself as making "twisted American classics." The dress had a cowl-necked collar and her belt was adorned with large jewels. As she sat, you could see a little pink petticoat peeking out over her knee.

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
Senior reporter
Talking Points Memo

Here's the attendees, as provided by the White House:

Elected officials-

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Senator Jack Reed

Governor Steven Beshear

Representative Mark Begich,

Representative John Conyers

Representative Jim Cooper

Representative Joseph Crowley

Representative Lloyd Doggett

Representative Paul Hodes, United States Representative

Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Martha Johnson, GSA Administrator

White House-
Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff
David Axelrod, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
Pete Rouse, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
Patrick Gaspard, Assistant to the President in the Office of Political Affairs
Alan Hoffman , Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Vice President
Antony Blinken, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor in the Office of the Vice President
Jason Furman, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Jared Bernstein, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Susan Sher, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady
Cynthia Hogan, Counsel to the Vice President


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release June 3, 2010




East Room

June 2, 2010

8:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Please, everybody have a seat. The show is not over. (Laughter.) To all the tremendous artists from all the genres and backgrounds who've joined us tonight to pay tribute to the one and only Sir Paul McCartney, thank you so much. (Applause.)

Stevie Wonder -- (applause) -- the Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris, Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Corinne Bailey Rae, David Grohl, and the funny man, Jerry Seinfeld -- give it up for them. (Applause.)

We also want to thank the Gershwin family, as well as the Library of Congress, and Dr. James Billington, as well as PBS, for helping to put this together. Dr. Billington has done extraordinary work at the Library of Congress, and his deep commitment to preserving America's cultural heritage for future generations is something that we all treasure.

We have a number of members of Congress, number of dignitaries here tonight. I want to make special mention of our outstanding Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) You will not find a bigger supporter of the arts than Nancy Pelosi, and so we're grateful for that.

Even as we gather here tonight to present this annual award for extraordinary contributions to American music and culture -- that's right, we stole you, Paul -- (laughter) -- it goes without saying that this has been a very difficult time. We've gone through a difficult year and a half, and right now our thoughts and our prayers are with friends in another part of the country that is so rich in musical heritage -- the people of the Gulf Coast who are dealing with something that we simply had not seen before. And it's heartbreaking. And we reaffirm, I think together, our commitment to see to it that their lives and their communities are made whole again. (Applause.)

But part of what gets us through tough times is music, the arts, the ability to capture that essential kernel of ourselves, that part of us that sings even when times are hard. And it's fitting that the Library has chosen to present this year's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to a man whose father played Gershwin compositions for him on the piano; a man who grew up to become the most successful songwriter in history -- Sir Paul McCartney. (Applause.)

By its very definition, popular music is fleeting. Rarely is it composed with an eye towards standing the test of time. Rarer still does it actually achieve that distinction. And that's what makes Paul's career so legendary.

It's hard to believe it's been nearly half a century since four lads from Liverpool first landed on our shores -- and changed everything overnight. And I have to share this story. While we were sitting here I learned that the bass that Paul was playing on stage is the same bass that he played at The Ed Sullivan Show, which he told me it cost him 30 pounds. He says he suspects it's worth a little more now. (Laughter.)

But the Beatles, they weren't the first rock stars. They'd be the first to say that others had opened that door for them. But they blew the walls down for everybody else. In a few short years, they had changed the way that we listened to music, thought about music and performed music forever. They helped to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation -- an era of endless possibility and of great change.

And over the four decades since, Paul McCartney has not let up -- touring the world with the band Wings or on his own; rocking everything from small halls to Super Bowls. He's composed hundreds of songs over the years -- with John Lennon, with others, or on his own. Nearly 200 of those songs made the charts -- think about that -- and stayed on the charts for a cumulative total of 32 years. (Laughter and applause.) And his gifts have touched billions of lives.

As he later confessed of the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show -- where he carried that bass out -- that one evening that changed everything -- Paul said, "Luckily, we didn't know what America was. We just knew our dream of it, or we probably would have been too intimidated."

Tonight, it is my distinct pleasure to present America's highest award for popular music on behalf of a grateful nation -- grateful that a young Englishman shared his dreams with us -- Sir Paul McCartney. (Applause.)

END 8:44 P.M. EDT


I absolutely love Sir Paul!

It's nice to know that the White House and staffers can take a break from the world crumbling to pieces to salute themselves and provide entertainment on our nickel.
Glad also to hear McCartney praise a President who has trashed the nation internally and externally.
Shame on all of them.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 3, 2010 6:45 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, June 3, 2010. Meets with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich jury selection starts today is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.