Elton John was set to perform at the White House before hanging up – he says – for good.
The world-famous rock pianist rocked out on the South Lawn on Friday night for a show he called ‘A Night When Hope and History Rhyme’, a reference to a poem by Irishman Seamus Heaney that President Biden often quotes .
Eager viewers could tune into the White House live stream to watch the performance.
It was John’s first concert at the White House since performing with Stevie Wonder at a 1998 state dinner honoring British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At 75, John is on a farewell tour after performing for over 50 years.
A giant outdoor tent and stage were set up on the White House lawn for the show. The 2,000-person guest list included teachers, nurses, frontline workers and LGBTQ advocates, as well as civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and Jeanne White-Ginder, an AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1990. The President made remarks before John took the stage.
The show came together after A+E Networks and History Channel, who are footing the bill, asked the White House and John if they would be open to a collaboration honoring “history makers of all days” as well as John himself, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
The president and the first lady are big fans. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir about singing “Crocodile Rock” to his two young boys as he drove them to school, and later to his son Beau before he died of cancer at age 46.
“I started singing Beau’s lyrics, quietly, so we could both hear it,” Biden wrote. “Beau didn’t open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling.”
Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John. He tried to have John play at his inauguration in 2017, but John refused, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate for a Briton to play at the swearing-in of a US president.
The White House has insisted Friday’s show was not an effort to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and often featured John’s music – including ‘Rocket Man’ and “Tiny Dancer” – in his pre-rally playlists over the years. Trump has dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the “rocket man” for his missile testing record.
Sir Elton – he wasby Queen Elizabeth II – has sold over 300 million records worldwide, played over 4,000 shows in 80 countries and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time, his 1997 reworking of “Candle In The Wind” to praise Princess Diana, which has sold 33 million copies.