WASHINGTON (AP) — Celebrities are back in the White House after a pop-culture backlash during the Trump years, when nearly everyone considered high-performing refused to show up.
Rocker Elton John brings his farewell tour to the South Lawn On Friday, the White House announced Tuesday, a week after singer James Taylor and presenters Jonathan and Drew Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers” helped celebrate a new health and climate protection bill.
John is among a number of entertainers who refused to perform for then-President Donald Trump.
Taylor sang and strummed his guitar to open last week’s event while the Scotts were among hundreds of people in the audience. They also joined Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, to film a movie smart video promoting the provisions of the Climate Change Act.
Since taking office during a pandemic that has paused too much togetherness, Biden, 79, has also opened up the White House to teenage singer Olivia Rodrigoto talk about young people and COVID-19 vaccinations and South Korean boy band BTS, to discuss Asian inclusion and representation.
Last year, the Democratic President resumed the tradition of hosting an in-person reception at the White House for artists honored by the Kennedy Center.
Actress Jennifer Garner accompanied First Lady Jill Biden to West Virginia last year to visit a school-based COVID-19 vaccination center in Charleston. Garner also hosted a PBS special “In Performance” to celebrate the White House holiday.
John’s concert is called “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a reference to a poem by Irishman Seamus Heaney that Biden often quotes. The performance is part of a collaboration with A+E Networks and the History Channel that will “celebrate the unifying and healing power of music, pay tribute to the life and work of Sir Elton John and honor the everyday historians in the audience.” said the White House. Guests include teachers, medical professionals, students, LGBTQ+ advocates and others.
John also has a Saturday night performance at Nationals Park in Washington as part of a tour concluding his 50+ year career. He opened the final leg of his North American farewell series in Philadelphia in July.
The 75-year-old British singer is among celebrities who have avoided the Trump White House since the Republican inauguration in 2017. John had turned down an invitation to play at Trump’s inauguration ceremonies, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate, that someone of British heritage plays a part in the inauguration of an American president.
Trump had praised John in some of his books and played John’s songs at his presidential campaign events, including “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.” Trump also called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “rocket man”. because of Kim’s habit of testing missiles.
Country singers Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood were among the more notable entertainers to perform to usher Trump into office. Bigger names from other genres declined or were not considered.
Hollywood has always been heavily democratic.
Singers Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks performed at the inauguration of Democrat Biden.
Aretha Franklin and Beyonce were among the celebrities who put on a huge show of force for Democrat Barack Obama, from fundraising through his two inaugurations to appearances at the White House or on the grounds.
They disappeared under Trump but are returning for Biden.
Biden bet on celebrities during his 2020 presidential campaign, when in-person chatting was largely suspended because of the coronavirus. A parade of movie and television stars, pop icons and standout athletes performed to help Biden raise money and motivate supporters.
Sir Elton – knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 – has sold over 300 million records worldwide, played over 4,000 shows in 80 countries and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time, his 1997 re-imagining of Candle In The Wind. to honor Princess Diana which has sold 33 million copies.
He has had over 70 top 40 hits, including nine #1 hits, and released seven #1 albums in the 3 1/2 years from 1972 to 1975, a pace second only to The Beatles. John has five Grammy Awards, a Tony Award for “Aida” and Academy Awards for songs from “The Lion King” and “Rocketman”.
He has played in the White House in the past.
John and Stevie Wonder performed together at a state dinner hosted by Democratic President Bill Clinton in honor of British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998. They performed under a tent on the roof of the West Colonnade.
John criticized Republican President George W. Bush and told a British magazine in November 2004 that Bush and his administration are “the worst thing that has ever happened to America”.
He was more diplomatic, however, at a December 2004 White House reception for a group of Kennedy Center honorees that included himself.
The rock legend said the honor “is the icing on the cake. … It is incredible for someone who is British to receive such an award from America, which has already given me so much in my career.”
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian in Washington and AP news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.