Going back to at least the 1940s, when Mickey Rooney played piano at Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 inauguration, marquee stars have clamored to perform at galas and celebrations that commemorate an incoming president and the peaceful transfer of power. This year, Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, Lee Greenwood and 16-year-old Jackie Evancho, among others, will sing at events marking the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. Here, we look back at notable performances, from Linda Ronstadt regaling Jimmy Carter with "Crazy" to Beyoncé singing the National Anthem for Obama, over the decades.
In 1977, Linda Ronstadt sang the Willie Nelson ballad "Crazy" at Jimmy Carter's inaugural concert. (If it seems like an odd choice for such an occasion, consider the fact that 15 years later, Ross Perot would adopt the Patsy Cline version as his campaign theme song.) Ronstadt, who performed on the campaign trail for Carter's one-time primary rival (and her sometime-boyfriend) California Governor Jerry Brown, later told Time magazine it was a tense assignment: "I was so nervous. My God, I was awful!"
Fun fact about 42rd president of the United States William Jefferson Clinton: His favorite Barbra Streisand song is the sappy ballad "Evergreen." Or at least that's according to Babs, who said she promised Clinton early in his first presidential campaign that she would sing at his inauguration. She kept that promise, serenading the guests at Clinton's star-studded pre-inaugural gala in 1992. The full line-up included performances from the Michael Jackson (who dedicated an emotional rendition of "Gone Too Soon" to HIV/AIDS activist Ryan White), as well as Elton John, the Alvin Ailey dancers and a reunited Fleetwood Mac.
A few days before Bill Clinton's first inauguration, the nation's capital hosted America's Reunion on the Mall, a free, two-day festival that was meant to celebrate the country's cultural diversity. It included Native American dancers, zydeco artists and soul groups, and it featured headliners like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Michael Bolton and Michael Jackson performing for a TV broadcast. At this concert, the self-proclaimed King of Pop led a who's who of artists in a round of his indefatigable "We Are the World." Stevie Wonder, Ashford and Simpson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, among others, sang, and Bill, Hillary and Chelsea even got in on the action. Jackson would perform again for Clinton the day before the election at the Presidential Gala, singing the Dangerous cuts, "Gone Too Soon" (about the AIDS crisis) and "Heal the World" (dedicated to all the children of the world).
Over a decade after their last performance together, the Rumours lineup of Fleetwood Mac reunited to perform at Bill Clinton's Inaugural Ball. The president had been using "Don't Stop" as his campaign song at 1992's Democratic National Convention, and its effectiveness struck a chord with the band members, notably Lindsey Buckingham, who'd quit the group in 1987, and Stevie Nicks, who'd left in 1991. "This is pretty much a one-off thing as far as I'm concerned," Buckingham said at the time of the performance. "In fact, if we'd been asked to do much more than the one song, I don't know if I would have been able to do that." Footage from the performance shows both Bill and Hillary, as well as Al and Tipper Gore, beaming as they clapped along to the 1977 hit, and at the end of it, the First Family ascended the stage (as did Michael Jackson) for the song's closing verses.
Bill Clinton was scene bobbing a thumbs-up, as he let his chin wag to the sounds of a cowboy-hat-wearing Bob Dylan singing 1964's "Chimes of Freedom" at the America's Reunion on the Mall concert. He didn't offer any commentary, but it didn't matter so much because the Clintons gave him a dramatic applause. He performed again later that same day at another inaugural event, singing "To Be Alone With You" and playing with the Band for a final time on a trio of songs, including "Key to the Highway." Despite this performance, and some rare words praising Barack Obama in 2008, Dylan has mostly steered clear of politics.
The eve of George W. Bush's official inauguration was a star-studded event, featuring performances from some of pop and country music's hottest stars. Ricky Martin stole the show with his electrifying performance of "The Cup of Life," after promising to share his culture with the audience (you can watch it here, starting from 01:37:49 mark). He caps it off by bringing Bush on-stage with him to do a little hip-moving with him. The night also included Jessica Simpson, who performed Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Our Kind of Love" with the Hoover Middle School Chorus. Destiny's Child also appeared at the opening ceremony, singing "Independent Women, Part 1" and "Jumpin', Jumpin'."
In 2009, Aretha Franklin belted "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Obama's inauguration from the Capitol steps, the opposite side end of the national mall from where, 46 years earlier, Martin Luther King Jr. quoted the song in his "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a frigid 28 degrees that day, a factor Franklin later said affected her voice. "Mother Nature was not very kind to me. I'm going to deal with her when I get home. It, by no means, was my standard. I was not happy with it," she later told Larry King, adding, "I was delighted and thrilled to be there. 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 – the promise of tomorrow coming to pass."
American troubadour James Taylor, an outspoken supporter of Barack Obama's, led the estimated 1.8 million attendees in a sing-a-long of his song "Shower the People" at the president's first swearing-in, with assists from crooner John Legend and country singer Jennifer Nettles. Theirs was just one of slate of all-star performances that day – Usher, Shakira and Stevie Wonder teamed up for a rendition of "Higher Ground," Herbie Hancock, Will.i.am and Sheryl Crow got together to sing "One Love."
Like the preamble to Bill Clinton's first swearing-in, Washington, D.C. hosted an all-star concert ahead of Barack Obama's inauguration, dubbed, "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial." Performers included John Mellencamp, Garth Brooks and show-stopper Beyoncé, but one of the most affecting moments was Bruce Springsteen's rousing, gospel-singer-backed rendition of "The Rising," a song about firefighters who died on 9/11. He played acoustic guitar and sang along with dozens of culturally diverse choristers, dressed in red and white. Video of the performance shows Obama, chin high, taking it all in.
Tacking on to the star power of having Beyoncé sing "The Star-Spangled" banner, Obama also hosted Kelly Clarkson at the public inaugural ceremony ahead of his second term. She belted "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," which had previously been performed by Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin at the 2009 inaugural ceremony. During election season, Clarkson had gotten heat for being a public supporter of Libertarian Ron Paul, but she later confirmed that she cast her vote for Barack Hussein Obama. Due to the controversy surrounding Beyoncé's decision to lip-sync to a pre-recorded track, Clarkson's decision to sing live had the media pitting the talented singers against one another following the ceremony.
Beyoncé and her husband Jay Z are quite possibly the two celebrities most associated with President Barack Obama, his campaigns and his two terms as POTUS. During his first inauguration weekend in 2009, she performed "America the Beautiful" and covered Etta James' "At Last" for the First Couple's first inaugural ball. She was a public supporter of Obama's bid for reelection and got the distinct honor of performing the National Anthem after he took his second oath. The pop megastar, however, courted controversy for the reverent performance because she used a pre-recorded track to which she lip-synced at the event. During a press conference prior to her Super Bowl halftime show a month later, she sang the song live for the journalists in the room, explaining that she had decided to not sing live that day because she is a "perfectionist" and did not have a chance to properly rehearse with the orchestra. "I'm very proud of my performance," she added.