Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, Will.i.am and more artists took the stage earlier this week in Washington, DC, for a Black History Month special titled “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement,” which aired last night on PBS. The concert was originally scheduled to take place on February 10th, but the threat of the northeast blizzard forced the production to film one day earlier. All of the performances are streaming now on the PBS Website.
President Barack Obama opened the concert by detailing music’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement, quoting Congressman John Lewis by saying, “For in the darkest hour, songs fed our spirits, gave us hopes.” Bob Dylan, in his debut performance at the White House, contributed an intimate rendition of “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” (watch it up top). While Dylan’s partner-in-protest and fellow Rolling Thunder Revue singer Joan Baez was also on the bill, the two did not perform together. Instead, Baez sang the protest anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
With Stevie Wonder sitting front row, Will.i.am performed Wonder’s own “Master Blaster (Jammin’).” Wonder rocked the White House at last year’s “In Performance” special, and President Obama has told RS that Wonder is his “musical hero.” Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson teamed for the Curtis Mayfield-penned “People Get Ready,” one of Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Prior to his performance, John Mellencamp talked about growing up during the civil rights era before launching into the folk song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.” Watch his performance here:
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