The White House celebrated Black History Month Thursday night with a tribute to the legendary Motown Records. Hosted by the President and First Lady, the program — to be aired March 1 on PBS — honors the Motown sound and its fifty year legacy of infusing American culture with soulful pop songs that became instant classics.
This is the eighth in a series of evening celebrations that tells the story of American culture through music. Since 2009, the Obamas have hosted musical tributes to Broadway, the genres of Jazz, Country, Classical, and Latin, along with folk music from the Civil Rights movement — all from the White House.
The all-star program featured original Motown performers Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, along with modern-day musicians covering titles like I Want You Back (Sheryl Crow) and Grapevine (John Legend). As the emcee of the night, Jamie Foxx narrated and cracked jokes, with Motown founder Berry Gordy grinning from the front row, along with other Motown legends in attendance, like Martha Reeves and the last surviving member of the Temptations.
Stevie Wonder brought down the house singing (You are) The Sunshine Of My Life, and joined all the performers on stage for the final number, Dancing In The Street.
Earlier in the day, as part of the musical series, Michelle Obama held an educational workshop on the history of Motown for high school students from around the country. Taught by GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli, the program gave students an overview of the importance this genre had in the integration of African-American culture. The program also featured Berry Gordy and musical legend Smokey Robinson.
WATCH these video highlight packages (courtesy of PBS’s In Performance at the White House and SkyNews), and some backstage interviews with Jordin Sparks, Natasha Bedingfield and Ledisi as they prepare their rendition of “Stop in the Name of Love”.