By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden and about 2,000 fans attended a White House performance on Friday by musical legend and activist Elton John, who is on an extensive farewell tour of the United States. United.
The British superstar performed hit songs such as ‘Rocketman’, ‘Your Song’ and ‘Tiny Dancer’ from the South Lawn, singing and playing the piano in an open-air structure set up for the performance, which at a moment moved Biden to tears.
“Like so many Americans, our family loves his music,” Biden said during the singer’s introduction. “It is clear that the music of Elton John has changed our lives.”
John, who declined to perform for former President Donald Trump’s inauguration, has agreed to perform for the Bidens as one of the few mainstream celebrities returning to the White House after years at the to avoid.
Her performance was part of a celebration to honor people the White House has called everyday heroes: nurses, emergency and mental health workers, teachers, LGBTQ+ advocates and activists.
John said playing at the White House was “the icing on the cake” after a career performing in fine venues. Between songs, he spoke about his fight against HIV/AIDS and praised former President George W. Bush, a Republican, for his efforts in the fight against AIDS in Africa through the Plan of President’s Emergency Relief Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Former First Lady Laura Bush was one of the guests at the performance.
John noted that the fight against AIDS in the United States has the support of both Republicans and Democrats.
“I just wish America was more bipartisan,” he said.
At the end of the evening, Biden moved John to tears by surprising him with the National Humanities Medal.
“I’m flabbergasted,” John said. “I will cherish that.”
The performance was paid for by A&E Networks and The History Channel, which is part of A&E, and will air at a later date. A&E Networks is a joint venture between Disney-ABC Television Group and Hearst.
The show was titled “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme”, taken from a poem by Irish writer Seamus Heaney. Biden regularly quotes Heaney and is a devotee of Irish sayings and poetry.
Biden has a special relationship with John’s music. He wrote in his 2017 memoir “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose” about singing “Crocodile Rock” to his son Beau as a child and again as an adult when Beau was dying of cancer.
John included this song in his Friday playlist.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler and Gerry Doyle)