“God bless you, let’s have some music,” mentioned Elton John.
With that, the White House South Garden was remodeled right into a musical lovefest Friday night time as John performed a farewell gig to honor on a regular basis “heroes” like academics, nurses and AIDS activists. However because it seems, the occasion was additionally to honor the 75-year-old British songwriter — President Joe Biden stunned him with the Nationwide Humanities Medal for being a “tidal wave” who helped folks stand up for justice.
John appeared virtually overcome by the accolades, telling the viewers of two,000 folks: “I don’t know what to say. … I don’t know how to take a compliment very well but it’s wonderful to be here amongst so many people who have helped my AIDS foundation and my heroes, that ones that work day to day on the front line.”
He mentioned he’d performed some stunning venues earlier than, however the stage in entrance of the White House, beneath a large open-air tent on an ideal autumn night time, was “probably the icing on the cake.”
He kicked off the present with “Your Song,” his first large worldwide hit.
The intimate visitor listing included academics, nurses, frontline staff and LGBTQ advocates, plus former first girl Laura Bush, civil rights advocate Ruby Bridges, training activist Malala Yousafzai and Jeanne White-Ginder, an AIDS activist and mom of Ryan White, who died from AIDS-related issues in 1990.
Biden and first girl Jill Biden talked concerning the British singer’s activism, the facility of his music and his all-around goodness. The occasion was dreamed up and paid for by A+E and the Historical past Channel.
“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote, ’Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme,” Biden mentioned. “Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been that tidal wave, a tidal wave to help people rise up and make hope and history rhyme.”
The night time, actually, was known as “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a reference to the poem Biden quoted by Eire’s Heaney.
Sir Elton — he was knighted in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II — has offered over 300 million data worldwide, performed over 4,000 exhibits in 80 nations and recorded one of many best-selling singles of all time, his 1997 remodeling of “Candle In The Wind” to eulogize Princess Diana, which offered 33 million copies.
John punctuated the hits Friday with emotional tidbits of his historical past, together with a shoutout to Laura Bush and former president George W. Bush for his administration’s emergency plan for AIDS reduction, and a narrative of how a dying Ryan White and his mom pushed him into advocacy within the first place, and helped him get sober.
“I wouldn’t be here talking tonight,” he mentioned. “They saved my life.”
He then devoted “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” to Ryan.
Regardless of the presence of loads of lawmakers, the political communicate was saved to a minimal, aside from when John mentioned, “I just wish America would be more bipartisan on everything.”
It was his first White House gig since he carried out with Stevie Surprise at a state dinner in 1998 honoring British Prime Minister Tony Blair. John is on a farewell tour that started in July after performing for greater than 50 years.
The present got here collectively after A+E Networks and the Historical past Channel requested the White House and John in the event that they’d be up for a collaboration honoring “everyday history-makers” in addition to John himself.
It’s not clear whether or not the present can be broadcast. John has labored with A+E previously on his world HIV/AIDS charity, the Elton John Basis, which has raised greater than $525 million to fight the virus world wide.
John is sticking round to play a sold-out present at Nationals Park Saturday.
The president and first girl are large followers. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir about singing “Crocodile Rock” to his two younger boys as he drove them to highschool, and once more later to son Beau earlier than he died of most cancers at age 46.
“I started singing the lyrics to Beau, quietly, so just the two of us could hear it,” Biden wrote. “Beau didn’t open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling.”
John performed the track Friday, saying somebody instructed him Biden used to sing it to his little boys. “I can’t imagine him singin’ it,” John quipped earlier than suggesting the president come up on stage. He didn’t. However the entire crowd did do the “La-La-Las” from their seats.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was additionally a fan of John. He tried to get John to carry out at his 2017 inauguration however John declined, saying he didn’t assume it was acceptable for a Brit to play on the swearing-in of an American president.
The White House insisted Friday’s present wasn’t an effort to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and has typically featured John’s music — together with “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” — in his pre-rally playlists over time. Trump nicknamed North Korean chief Kim Jong Un “rocket man” for his report of test-firing missiles.