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Michelle Obama Honors Women’s History Month with ‘Women of Soul’ Showcase

Entertainment Michelle 300x125 Michelle Obama Honors Womens History Month with Women of Soul Showcase

First lady Michelle Obama speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House with singers, from second from left, Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monáe, and Patti LaBelle.

By Nancy Benac

WASHINGTON — He bobbled the spelling, but President Barack Obama had nothing but R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the “women of soul” who shook and rattled the rafters of the White House.

“What a lineup!” Obama declared at the outset of a concert that featured a generations-spanning array of soul singers that stretched from musical legends Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle to 20-year-old Ariana Grande.

Obama paid tribute to Franklin for turning her signature song “Respect” into “a rallying cry for African-Americans, women and then everyone who felt marginalized.”

The pumped-up audience gave a hearty laugh but was more than willing to forgive the president for spelling it “R-S-P-E-C-T.”

First up in the East Room lineup was LaBelle, with a thundering delivery of “Over the Rainbow” that had the audience on its feet.

It was a mutual admiration society of sorts as LaBelle thanked the Obamas for their tenure in the White House, declaring, “Baby, you got swag!”

Grande, the youngster in the group, seemed in awe of her fellow performers and the august audience. Her lead-in: “What’s up? How are you? Good to see you. Thank you for having me.”

The emotional high point came when Franklin, 71, sauntered in, gave a shimmy and declared “Let’s have a party.” Then she went right into “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”
Also in the lineup: Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott and Tessanne Chin.

The program was livestreamed at WhiteHouse.gov/live and will be broadcast as an “In Performance at the White House” concert on April 7 on PBS.

At a morning arts workshop for high school and college students, first lady Michelle Obama called soul “the kind of music that makes you move, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

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