Soul-singers spanning generations wowed the White House on Thursday as Melissa Etheridge, Patti LaBelle and Janelle Monae warmed up the place for a “women of soul” concert showcasing musical legends and up-and-coming female artists.
At a morning workshop for high school and college students, first lady Michelle Obama called soul “the kind of music that makes you move, no matter who you are or where you come from.”
“Sometimes it makes your hips move,” she said. “Sometimes it makes you rock your head. Sometimes it helps you just kick back and relax and soak it in. But no matter what form it comes in, you know this music always comes straight from the heart.”
The three singers had plenty of stories and advice to share with the students, then got them whooping, hooting and swaying with a trio of songs in the intimate venue of the State Dining Room. LaBelle, 69, did an impromptu a cappella version of the “The Lord’s Prayer.” Etheridge, 52, seated herself at a piano to accompany herself on “Stormy Weather.” And Monae, 28, performed “Victory,” a song she wrote and that she said she’d imagined being sung in church.
The three were to be joined by Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Ariana Grande and Tessanne Chin later for an “In Performance at the White House” concert to be livestreamed at WhiteHouse.gov/live and broadcast April 7 on PBS.
Mrs. Obama quoted LaBelle as once saying that she had succeeded because she “took chances and sang my butt off.”
The first lady tried her own riff on that advice — then admitted she may have taken it a little too far.
“Find your own voice and be proud of it,” she said. “And then, sing your butt off. Or work your butt off. Or whatever you do, do it until your butt comes off. ”
Then she added: “OK, that quote is going to be kind of funny in the papers. I already know it. My communications people are like, ‘What?’ But you guys all know what I meant — be good at what you do. ”
The concert was scheduled as part of Women’s History Month.