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The Times

Sir Paul McCartney serenades the Obamas at the White House

He may have a repertoire of scores of classic hits to choose from, but there was only one song Sir Paul McCartney deemed appropriate to croon to the First Lady: the love ballad Michelle.

The former Beatle had the White House rocking last night as he performed an intimate concert for President Obama, his wife Michelle, their children and a number of guests as he was honoured with the Gershwin prize for Popular Song.

Performing in the ornate East Room, with its chandeliers and portraits of George and Martha Washington on the walls behind him, McCartney serenaded the first lady with the lyrics, “I love you, I love you, I love you,”.

The British singer then joked that he just might be the “first guy ever to be punched out by a president.”

McCartney, 67, said the evening was one of the highlights of his long career.

“I don’t think there could be anything more special than to play here,” he said, before jokingly volunteering to make it a regular gig. “Lunchtimes, we could come around … We’re cheap.”

Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Jack White - the singer and guitarist for the White Stripes - and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl were among the eclectic, star-studded line up who performed some of McCartney’s classic hits during the concert, which was also filmed for television.

Stevie Wonder had the Obamas clapping along to We Can Work It Out, the US teen brother band The Jonas Brothers performed Baby You Can Drive My Car, British pop singer Corinne Bailey Rae sang the ballad Blackbird, while American country singer Faith Hill sang Long and Winding Road.
Costello performed Penny Lane, describing the Beatles hit as a “thing of wonder and beauty”, noting that his mother grew up not far away from the street in Liverpool.

The Gershwin prize, awarded by the Library of Congress, is named after the songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin, whose collections are housed at the library.

McCartney is the third musician to receive the prize, after Wonder and Paul Simon.

Mr Obama hailed McCartney’s songs as a huge part of American culture, telling the singer-songwriter, “That’s right, we stole you, Sir Paul.”

The President added that while the Beatles might not have been the first rock group, “they blew the walls down for everyone else.”

“They helped to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation,” Mr Obama said.

McCartney, who said he had grown up listening to music by the Gershwin brothers, said that performing before the Obamas in the White House was an honour.

“For an English kid growing up in Liverpool, the White House — that’s pretty special,” he said

McCartney added that he is a fan of the President: “He’s a great guy … so lay off him.”

McCartney closed out the concert with a string of hits, including Hey Jude, which ended with Mr Obama and his family on stage singing along to the famous tune.

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