Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris and superstar Faith Hill both paid a visit to the White House on Wednesday, performing in front of President Barack Obama as Paul McCartney was honored with the Library of Congress’ third annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Faith sang “The Long And Winding Road,” according to the Associated Press, while Emmylou turned in a version of “For No One,” a song that originally appeared on the Beatles’ Revolver album in 1966. Emmy recorded it for her 1975 release Pieces Of The Sky, her first album to appear on the country chart.
The song is “so incredibly sad,” she told The New York Times. Emmylou, noted for her exquisite taste in songs, was particularly complimentary of Sir Paul, noting that he “writes lyrics that can stand on their own, but they certainly soar when paired with the melody.”
Paul followed Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder in winning the Gershwin Prize, named for George and Ira Gershwin, two of the most important American songwriting figures of the 20th century. Stevie hailed Paul with a version of “We Can Work It Out” as a parade of stars rolled out in homage. The evening included appearances by Elvis Costello, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, the Jonas Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Corinne Bailey Rae, classical pianist Lang Lang, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and White Stripes guitarist Jack White. Jack is known to many country fans as the producer of Loretta Lynn’s Grammy-winning album Van Lear Rose.
Paul aimed a performance of the Beatles’ “Michelle” to First Lady Michelle Obama and also sang “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.” The latter song was the title track of the album the Beatles released just as they broke up 40 years ago. “The Long And Winding Road,” the song Faith performed, also appeared on that project.
Approximately 200 people crammed into the East Room of the president’s home for the tribute, which will air July 28 as a PBS special, “In Performance At The White House.” The East Room is the same location where Brad Paisley sang “Welcome To The Future” to Barack Obama, whose election inspired Brad to write it. Brad’s appearance was captured a year ago alongside performances by Charley Pride and Alison Krauss + Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas in the GAC special Country At The White House.