They Performed at the Inauguration

January 20, 2017

The quadrennial presidential inauguration is one of highest profile gigs in music, and many musicians have gotten a huge boost performing for the new president on his first day in office. Here’s a look back at some past galas.
Inauguration Concerts


This marked Franklin Roosevelt’s third straight presidential election, so his vowing to uphold the Constitution was old hat by 1941. Nevertheless, the president still had a party. Pint-sized movie musical star Mickey Rooney performed.


While opera singer Marian Anderson performed at the actual Inauguration ceremony, the gala was presided over by Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, a close personal friend of new president John F. Kennedy.


Former 1940s movie star Ronald Reagan brought with him another 1940s movie star. Ethel Merman sang “God Bless America” during the Inauguration.


While today she’s an outspoken supporter of Democratic candidates and liberal causes, it was a different world more than 29 years ago—Barbra Streisand sang at the Inauguration Gala of President George H.W. Bush.


The incoming presidency of Bill Clinton triggered nothing less than a reunion of one of the most contentiously split rock groups of all time. Clinton’s campaign song had been Fleetwood Mac’s 1978 hit “Don’t Stop.” The band’s classic lineup, which had gone their separate ways in 1982, reformed to play the Inauguration Gala. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan played “unofficially” nearby—alone, with an acoustic guitar, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.


The Inauguration of George W. Bush was a multi-genre musical extravaganza, boasting more and more varied names than a Grammys broadcast. Ricky Martin and Jessica Simpson performed, as did boy band 98 Degrees—per the request of his teenage daughters.


During the ceremony, soul legend Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Following her was a performance of film composer John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts,” performed live by violinist Itzhak Perlman…to a track pre-recorded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

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