Music has always been a powerful medium. Whether it is a song to express social issues or political candidates identifying with a song or band.
Today is the 57th annual Presidential Inauguration. At the 56thth Inaguartion, not sure what was more memorable, Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” or the massive bow on her hat.
In fact, the Obama administration put an enormous amount of thought into curating the music for that Inauguration. They wanted the music to reflect that a younger, hipper President was coming into the White House. A big dichotomy from the music George W Bush had for his Inauguration; Brooks & Dunn, Wayne Newton & Ricky Martin. The message here was, ‘I’m a cowboy President and I embrace the latino culture too’.
Inaugural events have spotlighted the intersection of politics, pop culture and music since the early ’60s, said David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University.
“The person that really changed the nature of inaugural music was John Kennedy, because he was a friend with many in Hollywood — especially Frank Sinatra,” said Gergen, also a CNN contributor. “Sinatra came in and co-produced one of the great shows at an inauguration … and that became sort of the standard.”
Expect Obama’s second-term events to be more celebratory than his first-term functions. Beyonce will perform the national anthem, with Kelly Clarkson singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and James Taylor doing the honors on “America the Beautiful.”
“The first time around, we heard songs that had a message that you wouldn’t have heard in previous inaugurations — ‘A Change is Gonna Come,’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ We had people reflecting on the civil rights movement, the fact that we had our first African-American president,” said Phil Gallo, senior correspondent for Billboard. “Now, I think it’ll be a little more up-tempo, a little peppier. People want a bit of a diversion as we start to think about the next four years.”
Gergen doesn’t disagree. “Presidents often choose to make statements about who they are, and what their hopes and aspirations are through the music, through the inaugural address, through the people they bring together there.”
Obama’s lineup is deliberately inclusive to reflect his campaign agenda — but it could just as easily reflect the playlist of the first family.