*Rolling Stone has the scoop on what went on before and during the private Prince concert at the White House, which took place last Saturday and was so on the low that the White House press corps (and everyone else) had to found out about it afterward through Al Sharpton’s tweet.
“Leaving the White House party w/POTUS and FLOTUS. Awesome to see Prince and Stevie Wonder on keyboards together. Unbelievable experience,” he wrote.
Invited guest James Taylor, who has performed at the White House several times during President Obama’s reign, said he rolled up to the security gate last Saturday ready to deal with the usual reporters and cameramen, but instead…crickets.
“I thought there was going to be a lot of press on the way in,” the singer said. “But there was nobody there.” The only other person Taylor saw was comedian Dave Chappelle, who was escorted into the building at the same time.
This much had already already reported: The event took place in the East Room with about 500 A-list friends, supporters, and entertainment-world friends of the Obamas. One White House official called it a “private party for friends and family.” The set lasted two hours and included a duet with Stevie Wonder. The two shared keyboards on a version of Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and one other jam. Prince played two shows the following day as scheduled at the Warner Theatre.
We know that DJ Cassidy, who’s spun at Jay Z and Beyoncé’s wedding and Obama-connected events, played classic Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and Earth, Wind & Fire songs into the night.
We know that the guest list included (Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi, Ciara, accompanied by her boyfriend, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson), media friends (Al Roker, Gayle King, the Rev. Al Sharpton), Hollywood creative types (Chappelle, Tyler Perry, actresses Angela Bassett and Connie Britton of Nashville, and director Ava DuVernay).
We also know that the press corps was not happy about being left in the dark. At the daily press briefing 48 hours after the fact, press secretary Josh Earnest was grilled on why the administration didn’t “verify the event” until after it was over — and even then only reluctantly. Earnest called it “a non-public event that occurred at the White House” and added, “Given the private nature of the event, I don’t have a lot of details to discuss from here.” He also declined to comment on rumors that the Obamas had tried to recruit Prince for one of his campaigns but confirmed that the Obamas personally paid for the event.
Below are new revelations reported in Rolling Stone:
- The reason for the event remains unclear – the best guess is that it was a thank you to supporters. Prince, a longtime Obama favorite, was already scheduled to play a show in D.C. the following night, and according to one source close to one of the guests, “It wasn’t connected to a birthday or anniversary. Prince was playing in D.C. and Obama is a big Prince fan and thought about doing something around it.”
- The White House declined to release a guest list for the evening, and at least one of the entertainers in attendance had to sign a non-disclosure form agreeing not to talk about the event. Nearly every guest invited to the party who was contacted by Rolling Stone declined to comment on the party, including Bon Jovi, who made a special trip to D.C. for the event. “He’s observing the private nature of event — just not commenting,” Bon Jovi’s rep told the magazine.
- Taylor’s wife Kim, who joined her husband, is a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and Taylor himself performed at Obama’s 2012 inauguration. Some of the same guests, including Taylor, Bassett, and Wonder, were also invited to Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday in the East Room last year. “Prince’s set was unbelievable,” Taylor told Rolling Stone. “The energy was incredible. It was loud and everyone was on their feet and it was electric. It was definitely a funky kind of groove.”
- Sharpton declined to comment any further after his tweet inadvertently broke the news of the party to the world.