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Legendary White House Performances

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Americans have long sought to re-create the regal trappings of the European royalty they once so democratically rejected. And in no better way do Americans manifest this need to hold court than with command performances at The White House. Every few years the reigning President invites the country’s greatest musical luminaries to perform live for him, his family and loyal supporters. Today, DoYouRemember looks back at some memorable White House showcases, from the Eisenhowers to the Clintons.

Victor Borge (1953)

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This Danish transplant was equal parts Vladimir Horowitz and Buddy Hackett. A trained classical pianist, Borge quickly learned how to attract and keep an audience through humor. Here he performs for the recently inaugurated Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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The Camelot Era

With the inauguration of young President Jack Kennedy and his elegant wife, the Beltway truly became a facsimile of royal culture. The administration hosted the most state dinners, parties and concerts of any to date. During their tenure, organizations such as The Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theater, American Shakespeare Theatre, New York City Center Light Opera Company and many others performed live at The White House.

Spanish cellist Pablo Casals not only played for the Kennedy White House in 1961, but also for the Theodore Roosevelt administration more than 50 years before, in 1904.

 

The Reagan White House

The 1980s were a momentous time for America: Domestically, millionaires were being minted virtually overnight; abroad, the Iron Curtain had started to rust. Eager to capitalize on the political implications of this change, President Reagan invited Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to a special White House concert with virtuoso pianist Van Cliburn. The musician entertained the group of diplomats well into the night with classical pieces and droll Russian banter.

 

The Clinton Resurgence

With the ’92 Presidential election, the torch was again passed to another generation, the Baby Boomers. The saxophone-playing President Clinton brought a new batch of rock, folk and soul music, hitherto unseen, within the hallowed halls of The White House.

 

Whitney Houston (1994)

 

Aretha Franklin and Lou Rawls (1994)

 

Eric Clapton (1999)

 

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