Elton John plays in the White House

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WASHINGTON (AP) — “God bless you, let’s make some music,” Elton John said.

With that, the White House South Lawn was transformed into a musical feast of love Friday night as John played a farewell concert to honor everyday ‘heroes’ like teachers, nurses and nurses. AIDS activists. But it turns out the event was also meant to honor the 75-year-old British songwriter – President Joe Biden surprised him with the National Humanities Medal for being a ‘tidal wave’ that helped people stand up for justice.

John seemed almost overwhelmed with the accolades, telling the audience of 2,000, “I don’t know what to say. … I’m not sure how to take a compliment, but it’s wonderful to be here among so many people who have helped my AIDS foundation and my heroes, those who work on the front lines every day.

He said he’s played some nice venues before, but the stage outside the White House, under a huge outdoor tent on a perfect fall night, was “probably the icing on the cake.”

He kicked off the show with “Your Song”, his first major international hit.

The intimate guest list included teachers, nurses, frontline workers and LGBTQ advocates, as well as former first lady Laura Bush, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, education activist Malala Yousafzai and Jeanne White-Ginder, an AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden spoke about the British singer’s activism, the power of his music and his general kindness. The event was imagined and financed by A+E and History Channel.

“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote, ‘Once in a lifetime, the long-awaited tidal wave of justice may rise, and hope and history rhyme,'” Biden said. “Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been that tidal wave, a tidal wave to help people rise up and bring hope and history together.”

The night, in fact, was called “A night where hope and history rhyme”, a reference to the poem Biden quoted by the Irishman Heaney.

Sir Elton – he was knighted in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II – has sold over 300 million records worldwide, played more than 4,000 shows in 80 countries and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time, his 1997 revamp of “Candle In The Wind.” to praise Princess Diana, which has sold 33 million copies.

John punctuated the Friday hits with emotional snippets of his story, including a shoutout to Laura Bush and former President George W. Bush for his administration’s emergency plan for the fight against AIDS, and a story of how a dying Ryan White and his mother pushed him into plea in the first place, and helped him get sober.

“I won’t be here to talk tonight,” he said. “They saved my life.”

He then dedicated “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” to Ryan.

Despite the presence of many lawmakers, political speech was kept to a minimum except when John said, “I just wish America was more bipartisan on everything.”

It was his first White House gig since performing with Stevie Wonder at a 1998 state dinner honoring British Prime Minister Tony Blair. John is on a farewell tour which began in July after playing for over 50 years.

The show came together after A+E Networks and History Channel asked the White House and John if they would be up for a collaboration honoring “everyday history makers” as well as John him. -same.

It is unclear if the show will air. John has worked with A+E in the past on his global HIV/AIDS charity, The Elton John Foundation, which has raised over $525 million to fight the virus around the world.

John is sticking around to play a sold-out show at Nationals Park on Saturday.

The president and the first lady are big fans. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir about singing “Crocodile Rock” to his two young boys as he drove them to school, and later again to his son Beau before he died of cancer in 46 years.

“I started singing Beau’s lyrics, quietly, so we could both hear it,” Biden wrote. “Beau didn’t open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling.”

John played the song on Friday, saying someone told him Biden used to sing it to his little boys. “I can’t imagine him singing it,” John joked before suggesting the president take the stage. He did not do it. But the whole crowd went “La-La-Las” from their seats.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John. He tried to have John play at his inauguration in 2017, but John refused, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate for a Briton to play at the swearing-in of a US president.

The White House has insisted Friday’s show was not an effort to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and often featured John’s music – including ‘Rocket Man’ and “Tiny Dancer” – in his pre-rally playlists over the years. Trump has dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the “rocket man” for his record of missile testing.

John played both on Friday, to thunderous applause.

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