April 11, 2013
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House celebration Tuesday night of Memphis soul music is an affirmation of the decades of hard work that went into making it a classic American music sound, said some of the artists tapped to perform.
“I’m proud to do this,” said Sam Moore, half of the Sam & Dave soul duo, known for the hit “Hold On, I’m Comin’.”
Moore said he was kicking off the concert in the East Room after an introduction by President Barack Obama. The 77-year-old said it's his first time meeting Obama and he joked about possibly wearing a diaper — just in case.
“You just hope you don’t slosh in your shoe,” he said in between rehearsals. Moore did not give away any details about his performance.
Artist William Bell said the concert reaffirms years of hard work that began in the 1960s when Stax Records was created in Memphis, Tenn., and the label cranked out one soul and R&B hit after another for more than a decade.
Among its artists were Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Bell and Sam & Dave.
“As kids coming up, we didn't think it would last this long,” the 73-year-old Bell said of the music genre during a rehearsal break. He said he would perform one of his hits, “You Don’t Miss Your Water.”
Tuesday’s concert is the 10th in the “In Performance at the White House” series. The lineup includes Alabama Shakes, Steve Cropper, Ben Harper, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Ledet, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, Bell and Moore, with Booker T. Jones as music director and band leader.
Al Green was listed in the original lineup but, about an hour before the show, the White House released a statement from the singer’s spokesman who said Green had suffered a back injury that will keep him from traveling and that he will be unable to perform. Green sent his regrets.
The entire program is set to air next Tuesday on PBS stations nationwide. It will also be broadcast at a later date over the American Forces Network for service members and civilians at Defense Department locations worldwide.
The program also honors Memphis, where whites and blacks came together in the 1960s to make a soulful blend of gospel and rhythmic grooves despite it being a segregated city.
Earlier in the day, the first lady kicked off a workshop featuring Moore, Staples, Timberlake, Musselwhite and Harper for students from 16 schools and organizations in Virginia, California, Memphis, New York City, Maryland, Florida and Washington, D.C.
She noted Memphis’ history as the birthplace of Elvis Presley’s rock and roll and B.B. King’s blues.
“And while you can hear both of those influences in Memphis soul, this music has a style and a story uniquely its own,” Mrs. Obama said, before launching into the story of Stax Records.
She noted that the label also represented “somebody my husband thinks he sounds like” — Green. “Let’s just tell him he does, OK? Since he is the president, we like to boost him up a little bit.”
It was a reference to Obama singing a few bars of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” in February 2012 during a Democratic fundraiser at New York’s Apollo Theater.
Mrs. Obama also tried to encourage the students, including some aspiring musicians, by noting that the artists perched on stools in front of them have spent decades perfecting their talent to get where they are.
She recalled playing the piano as a young girl and said she regretted not keeping it up. But she said the skills learned through music can be useful in other avenues of life.
“The discipline, the patience, the diligence I learned through the study of music, those are all skills that I apply every single day in my life,” Mrs. Obama said. “I applied them as a student, as a lawyer, as a first lady, and definitely as a mother.”
Started in February 2009, the “In Performance at the White House” series has celebrated the music of Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Hispanic music, music from the civil-rights era, Motown and the blues, Broadway and country music.