7 Top Presidential Inauguration Performances to Feast on Again (VIDEO)
The Celebrating America primetime special, which will cap off the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Wednesday, January 20, will feature eye-popping star power: Tom Hankshosts the program airing live on ABC, CBS, NBC, and other channels at 8:30/7:30c, Lady Gaga sings the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez. Plus, the 90-minute program will also feature appearances by Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Kerry Washington. And, has just been announced, Garth Brooks will perform at the swearing in.
These performers are just the latest examples of the top talent who have used their considerable skills to help usher in a new administration. Below, 7 absolutely mind-blowing performances from the last 60 years.
Biden, then vice president, was very much present when Beyoncé “sang” the national anthem at President Barack Obama’s second swearing-in. (She courted controversy by lip-syncing, later explaining that she didn’t get a chance to rehearse with the Marine Band, but performed a pitch-perfect rendition of the same song at a Super Bowl press conference weeks later. “Any questions?” she asked after the impromptu performance.)
Queen Bea Again (2009)
Four years prior, the 24-time Grammy winner performed an indelible version of Etta James’ classic “At Last” during Obama’s Inaugural Ball as he and wife Michelle Obama took their first dance as president and first lady.
Aretha Franklin (2009)
The Queen of Soul wasn’t pleased with her performance of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” in the cold weather on Obama’s first Inauguration Day — “Mother Nature was not very kind to me,” she later told Larry King — but viewers certainly were. And for Franklin, just being invited was an honor: “That was the most important thing, not so much the performance, but just to be there and to see this great man go into office,” she explained to King.
Ricky Martin (2001)
Well, this one was the night before, but it gives us an excuse to mention that George W. Bush, who would be sworn in the next day as the 43rd president, attempted some hip-shaking as Ricky Martin performed “The Cup of Life.”
Michael Jackson (1993)
At a concert before President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration (and before Jackson’s reputation took a precipitous plunge), the King of Pop led an all-star performance of “We Are the World” bolstered by the singing voices of Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, a very long-haired Michael Bolton, future Fear the Walking Dead star Rubén Blades, and even Clinton himself.
Loretta Lynn (1977)
After performing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” during Jimmy Carter’s inauguration festivities, the country singer cracked wise in her Kentucky drawl: “Maybe people will quit laughing about the way I talk because the president of the United States talks the same way. I’d like to say also that he’s the only president we’ve had that don’t talk with an accent.”
Nat King Cole (1961)
The famed jazz singer performed “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top” from the Broadway musical Oklahoma! at a pre-inaugural ball before John F. Kennedy became the 35th president—joining Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, and other stars at the ball. Because of a blizzard-caused power outage, the gala was not aired on NBC as planned, but it was finally broadcast on PBS over five decades later.
Celebrating America, Wednesday, January 20, 8:30/7:30c, ABC, CBS, NBC