Obama Sings the Blues with Mick Jagger and B.B. King


The president couldn’t say no when Mick Jagger handed him a mic, soon Barack Obama was belting out the blues with the best of them.

The East Room of the White House was made into an intimate blues club on Tuesday night for a concert featuring blues artists of the past, present and future.

Obama’s performance came as a surprise at the end of the concert when the blues singers were singing “Sweet Home Chicago,” the blues anthem of Obama’s home town.

Buddy Guy pushed the president by saying he’d heard that the president sang part of an Al Green tune recently, and added, “You gotta keep it up.”

Then Mick Jagger handed over the mic, and Obama seemed compelled to comply.

“Come on, baby don’t you want to go,” the president sang out twice, handing off the mic to B.B. King momentarily, and then taking it back to add “Sweet Home Chicago” at the end.

Obama said sometimes there are downsides to being the president.  You can’t just go for a walk, for example.

And they there are times that more than make up for all those frustrations, he said, like Tuesday night, when Jagger, King, Jeff Beck and other musical giants came by the house to sing the blues.

“I guess things even out a little bit,” Obama joked at the start of the East Room concert that was electrified by Jagger and the rest.

“This music speaks to something universal,” Obama said.  “No one goes through life without joy and pain, triumph and sorrow.  The blues gets all of that, sometimes with just one lyric or one note.”

King, 86, arrived in a wheelchair but rose tall to kick off the night with a boisterous “Let the Good Times Roll,” and was quickly joined by other members of the ensemble.  He followed with “The Thrill is Gone.”

From there, Obama and his wife, Michelle, were swaying in their seats and singing along to an all-hits playlist including “St. James Infirmary” and “Let Me Love You.”

Jeff Beck slowed things down with an instrumental “Brush with the Blues,” as anticipation built for the arrival of Jagger, who didn’t disappoint.

The Rolling Stones lead singer delivered on “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and then teamed up with Beck on “Commit a Crime.”  Jagger got the president and his wife up out of their seats, swaying and clapping to the music, and picked up the pace with “Miss You,” performed with Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi.

The blues concert will be part of the “In Performance at the White House” series that airs on PBS.  This one, designed to recognize Black History Month, will be broadcast on Monday on PBS stations and aired later on American Forces Network.

February 22, 2012