10 best inauguration performances of all time, including Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé
The show must go on.
On Wednesday, Joe Biden, as the 46th President of the United States, was inaugurated by President Donald Trump's supporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., exactly two weeks after the federal attack. But even with threats of violence and protests, the ceremony went smoothly as Lady Gaga performed the national anthem, Garth Brooks sang "Amazing Grace" and Jennifer Lopez made a mashup of "This Land is Your Land" and "America" made the beautiful one. "
The festivities continue Wednesday night with Tom Hanks' "Celebrating America" special on ABC (8:30 am EST / PST), which features musical guests such as Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Jon Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line of Tyler Hubbard attended.
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To mark the historic event, we're going to take a look back at some of the best inauguration performances of the past four decades.
Aretha Franklin, "My Country", "Tis of Thee" (2009)
Franklin appeared in the inauguration of three presidents: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The singer, who died in 2018, shone at Obama's first inauguration and produced a soulful rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee". For many, Franklin's epic hat with a giant bow was the piece that exaggerated that feat.
Barbra Streisand, "God Bless America" (1993)
There is no over-the-phone performance of Streisand that divinely makes this patriotic classic its own with every carefully pronounced word and soaring vocal riff. As she starts into a piercing belt for the breathtaking final verse, the camera cuts to Bill Clinton, who is smiling and pumping from his seat with his fist at his first inaugural concert. This is exactly our reaction, no matter how often we watch.
Beyoncé, "Finally" (2009)
Beyoncé is no stranger to the President's fantastic performances. He sang "America the Beautiful" at Obama's 2009 Inaugural Concert and sang the national anthem when he was sworn in for a second term in 2013. Our favorite moment, however, was when she serenaded the President and First Lady Michelle Obama with "At Last" made famous by Etta James at the 2009 Inaugural Ball. The way the Obamas made each other and then a radiant Queen B. looking at the whole room is passed out. And the weight of the story - the election of our country's first black president - makes the scene all the more beautiful when actress Kerry Washington cries in the audience.
Bob Dylan, 'Chimes of Freedom' (1993)
Dylan wrote some of the best protest songs in history, but the legendary folk singer has always had a relationship with politics. One of his most memorable "on" moments was in 1993 when he was performing for Clinton's inauguration. "Chimes of Freedom" was the song he picked that came with his scratchy voice. A grinning Clinton can be seen at one point, offering a thumbs up.
Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger, This Land is Your Land (2009)
After four years of division, it is deeply moving to see this joyous performance of Barack Obama's first inauguration. Springsteen and Seeger, who died in 2014, stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial, flanked by gospel singers in blue and red, and lead the crowd in a simple but heartwarming rendition of "This Land is Your Land". It reminds us of the values of freedom and equality that make this country so great and never brings tears to our eyes again.
Fleetwood Mac, 'Don't Stop' (1993)
A thoroughly delightful performance of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 crowd-pullers, which concluded Clinton's first opening concert with a message of hope and optimism ("It'll be better than before / Yesterday is gone, yesterday is gone"). Stay around until the end to see Michael Jackson join the band for the final chorus, dancing side by side with Stevie Nicks and a Bill playing the tambourine. First lady Hillary Clinton and then teenage daughter Chelsea are also having fun, clapping and swaying on stage with a gospel choir.
Kelly Clarkson, 'My Country', 'Tis of Thee' (2013)
Clarkson is no stranger to performing in front of crowds under pressure. After all, she started with “American Idol”. And yet she looks incredibly nervous here. So did Starstruck when she shakes hands with then Vice President Joe Biden. But once she starts, it's the Kelly Clarkson we know and love to deliver a poignant rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee".
Lady Gaga, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'
The national anthem is an often solemn affair, with many artists too afraid of losing this ultimate "freedom" to really let go or even break a smile. Meanwhile, at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Lady Gaga struck the perfect balance between awesome and relaxed, dramatic and lofty camp: her voice rose as she channeled Patti LuPone with her arms outstretched and eyes staring up on "Evita". It was an exuberant moment made even more memorable by the pop star's wonderfully lavish ensemble, apparently taken from the costume trailer of a "Hunger Games" movie.
Ray Charles, "America the Beautiful" (1985)
Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys led the bill for Ronald Reagan's second opening gala. But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Charles, who performed his now definitive version of "America the Beautiful" everywhere from Lincoln Center to the World Series. Soulful and moving, it's hard not to get emotional when the audience joins him for the last verse of the song.
Ricky Martin, "Cup of Life" (2001)
Martin brought tremendous energy as the final cast member on George W. Bush's first inauguration. As the "Cup of Life," while spinning and shaking his hips, he led the crowd in a call-and-response of "Do you really want it? Yes!" We're still singing "Ale, Ale, Ale!"
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Inaugural Performances: The 10 Best of All Time, Including Lady Gaga
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