McCartney’s Long, Winding Road Goes To White House

If the first British invasion of the White House ended with the house afire, the latest had Barack and Michelle Obama and their kids bouncing in their seats at a tribute concert for former Beatle Paul McCartney.

Photo: AP Photo
President Barack Obama applauds after presenting Paul McCartney with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

The setting for the McCartney tribute was the ornate East Room, chandeliers overhead, George and Martha Washington portraits on the walls and an all-star lineup cranking out some of McCartney’s greatest hits.

Stevie Wonder had the Obamas clapping to “We Can Work It Out.” The Jonas Brothers did “Baby You Can Drive My Car.” Corinne Bailey Rae slowed things down with “Blackbird.” And Faith Hill stroked “Long and Winding Road.”

Elvis Costello crooned “Penny Lane,” and called it a “thing of wonder and beauty,” noting that his mother grew up not far away from the now-famous street in Liverpool, England.

Jerry Seinfeld had lots of compliments for McCartney and one complaint – he couldn’t quite figure some of McCartney’s lyrics.

Such as: “She was just 17. You know what I mean.”

Seinfeld: “I’m not sure I do know what you mean, Sir Paul. I think I know what you mean. And I think there’s a law enforcement agency in a couple of states that might want to ask you a few questions.”

The event’s executive producer, Cappy McGarr, said Wednesday’s concert was probably “the smallest venue that Sir Paul has played since the Cavern” in his days in Liverpool.

The 67-year-old McCartney, seated right next to Obama for the concert, was there to receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded by the Library of Congress. He kicked things off with a rocking rendition of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

Among others performing: Emmylou Harris, White Stripes singer and guitarist Jack White and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

Photo: AP Photo
Playing the East Room in The White House.

The Gershwin prize, awarded by the Library of Congress, is named for the songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin, whose collections are housed at the library. Previous recipients of the Gershwin award are Wonder and Paul Simon.

McCartney played a private concert at the library on Tuesday, and said he’d grown up listening to music by the Gershwin brothers.

For all the awards the former Beatle has collected over the years, he said performing before the Obamas in the East Room was still a pinch-me moment.

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

“He’s a great guy,” McCartney said of Obama, “so lay off him.”

Librarian of Congress James Billington credited McCartney for “symbolizing and humanizing the global soundscape,” with his music and his activism around the world.

Those not lucky enough to snag tickets to the East Room gig can catch the concert July 28th, when it’s televised on PBS’ “In Performance at the White House.”