April 9th, 2013
10:19 PM ET
10 years ago

Memphis music created ‘harmony with harmony,’ Obama says

(CNN) – The new sound out of Memphis in the 1960s and 70s wasn’t just catchy, President Barack Obama said Tuesday. Soul music was a way to unite people through common human emotions – love, heartbreak and tenderness.

Speaking at a White House celebration of the genre, Obama said those common themes made Memphis soul almost universally popular.

“Who does not love this music?” he asked to applause. The event featured a slew of hit-makers, both past (Mavis Staples, Eddie Floyd, William Bell) and present (Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, and Justin Timberlake, singing “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” alongside Steve Cropper).

“These songs get us on the dance floor…They get stuck in our heads,” Obama said. “We go back over them again and again. And they’ve played an important part in our history.”

When Memphis was a segregated city in the 1960s, musicians formed integrated bands that helped to “bridge those divides - to create a little harmony with harmony,” Obama said.

“That was the spirit of their music - the sound of Soulsville, U.S.A., a music that, at its core, is about the pain of being alone, the power of human connection, and the importance of treating each other right,” Obama said.

During the concert, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama danced in their seats alongside daughters Malia and Sasha.

The concert was part of the PBS series “In Performance at the White House,” which began in 1978.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. peacemonger

    Its a shame that the great Donald `Duck` Dunn did not live to do this show with Steve Cropper. RIP.

    April 9, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  2. Thomas

    You have to admit , Obama has good taste when it comes to music .
    “That was the spirit of their music – the sound of Soulsville, U.S.A

    America has soul !

    April 9, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  3. freedom

    What the hell is going on? The American taxpayers are not allowed to visit the White House, but the Obama's are partying it up with musicians on our dime?? Get this guy out of office. He is a disgrace – and not only does he not deserve the honor of the office he holds – the American people deserve so much BETTER!

    April 10, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  4. Party of Know

    I'll be the first to respond, according to CNN, nobody else has. I wonder if this will be posted. My response is, I think the majority of tax-payers would have preferred White House tours be available to American citizens as opposed to a private Concert for our President and his wife. We all know this event cost thousands of dollars. It just doesn't sit well for the American public, that is of course unless you're part of the 1%.

    April 10, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  5. Name lynn

    President obama finally had peace went he visit memphis, smooth sound of soul music an no media, an no sound of the republicans, the white house leaders, boehner, nor democrates. Wow obama thats great.

    April 10, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  6. Old white conservative gun owning male

    This guy is a real hypocrite. He sits around the white house and enjoys a life style of the rich, then can’t get off his backside and do his job but can take time out from his lavish living to spend millions of our dollars to play golf or go on yet another vacation. And then tell the minions that support him that he is giving up 5% of his pay to show his dedication towards the country. Well here’s an idea. Let’s stop the needless travel like all government offices are doing, stop sponsoring lavish parties at the white house for your minion friends, and when it comes to your pay how about cutting it by 20% like the rest of the government workforce that your sequestration is going to do with the furloughs.

    April 10, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  7. Thomas

    Really we can afford this and all of the vacations, while millions of Americans are on welfare, unemployed and sequestration looms. America is in decline and the collective politicians are looking more like 3rd world dictators than American statesmen.

    April 10, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  8. John

    WOw – even for this guy this is bad

    April 10, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  9. Guest

    Sequestration be damned...let the liberal parties and wasted spending continue!

    April 10, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |