Judging by the lineup, Sunday’s inaugural celebration for Barack Obama at the Lincoln Memorial is a coveted gig for music’s top names.
Beyonce, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban and James Taylor are among the musicians scheduled to perform Sunday afternoon. The president-elect and his family are due to attend, with Obama expected to speak.
Other performers include Stevie Wonder, Renee Fleming, Garth Brooks, Mary J. Blige, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend and Jennifer Nettles. Historical passages will be read by Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington, with other celebrities expected to join them.
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HBO will televise the show at 7 p.m. EST.
After getting the go-ahead from the Presidential Inaugural Committee two and a half weeks ago to put the show together, executive producer George Stevens Jr. said he quickly learned it would not be like any other special event he’s tried to book.
“On that first day, we asked Springsteen, Bono and Garth Brooks within a period of 45 minutes and got three ‘yeses,”’ Stevens said. “We said, ‘This is going to be fun.”’
Stevens said he tried to reach out to a diversity of artists. The theme for the show, titled “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial,” is less about celebration than national unification.
“The list of stars is impressive,” he said. “But this is not a show biz, glitzy occasion. It’s going to be rooted in history, remembering the great president (Lincoln) who led us through difficult times.”
The artists won’t be performing their big hits, but will be asked to perform material appropriate to the occasion. One musician will be asked to perform “A Change Is Gonna Come,” the song made famous by Sam Cooke.
Springsteen, who performed his song “The Rising” on a somber occasion — the nationally televised concert after the 2001 terrorist attacks — is scheduled to bring the song back for the Lincoln Memorial concert, Stevens said.
Stevens is a producer of “The Kennedy Center Honors” and will be working Sunday with Don Mischer, who has produced Olympics ceremonies in the past. Stevens is a longtime Obama supporter. HBO televised a similar inaugural concert in 1993, for President Clinton’s first term in office.
HBO will be offering an open feed to its cable and satellite distributors on Sunday, meaning the pay cable network will be given free to anyone who wants to watch it.
After a cold snap later in the week, Washington’s long-range forecast calls for partly cloudy weather and temperatures in the mid-30s for the outdoor concert.
“We love it,” Stevens said. “We’re very Zen about this. We’re just going to make it work.”