John Legend, Jamie Foxx, Nick Jonas, Seal and other musicians busted out the Motown classics at the White House on Thursday for a group of cheering teens in the spirit of President Barack Obama and his wife’s musical youth.
“Times have changed but the amazing thing is that that music is still relevant,” Legend said after he sat down at a piano in the State Dining Room and delivered a room-filling rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love.”
The singer shared some of his own childhood memories when he first was introduced to Motown, saying it was his dad and uncle’s singing that inspired his love for music.
Mrs. Obama explained that it was more than music; it was a social movement.
“As Motown rose, so did the forces of change in this country,” she said. “During that time, it was the time of King and Kennedy, it was a time of marches and rallies and groundbreaking civil rights laws.”
But there was more music in store before the evening was over. In fact, several of the Motown vets as well as the man himself, Berry Gordy, were in the house and represented the big M quite nicely.
Smokey Robinson took the stage with Sheryl Crow for a duet on his hit, “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” and then Stevie Wonder followed with his classic, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”
“Berry, thank you for this incredible Motown ride,” Wonder said, calling for the crowd to celebrate by “dancing in the streets” to introduce the showstopper of the same name, joined by all the other performers, as well as Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas.
In a bit of Motown soul, Reeves brought down the band in the middle of the song to improvise some praise for Gordy as the music continued lightly, and then the Obamas and daughter Sasha took the stage for the rousing finish