If You’re Gonna Play the White House, There’s Gotta be a Fiddle in the Band

“I know folks think I’m a city boy, but I do appreciate listening to country music. It’s about folks telling their life story the best way they know how.” – President Barack Obama

Via Norm Geras, I see that the president hosted Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, and Charley Pride as part of the White House Summer Music series.

“They grabbed the contemporary popular chart,” [Paisley] said, referring to himself. “They grabbed the artistic bluegrass side,” he continued, referring to Ms. Krauss. “And then they grabbed the legend side”: Mr. Pride, country’s most successful African-American performer, has had more than three dozen No. 1 country singles since the mid-1960s.

Mr. Paisley performed the title song of “American Saturday Night,” about the United States as a melting pot, and “Welcome to the Future,” which has a verse about race relations that starts with the recollection of a burning cross and concludes, “From a woman on a bus to a man with a dream/Hey, wake up Martin Luther.” He wrote it, Mr. Paisley said before the concert, after the 2008 election, when he was in New York City on election night and saw jubilation in Times Square. “It just felt like the world had shifted on a dime,” he said. “I wanted to encompass this big theme of how far we’ve come in a song.”


Mr. Pride has taken pains throughout his career to set aside racial considerations, describing himself as “an American singing American music.” He had performed for Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

“It’s always an honor,” Mr. Pride said.

Before the concert, he called President Obama “a very blessed man and a brilliant mind,” and saw a parallel between their careers. “There’s a similarity in what he has done and what I went through,” he said. He added that in his long career on the country circuit, there had “never been a hoot” or a racial epithet from his audiences.

These stories are not only entertaining but useful in reminding us of the continuity in American life that transcends politics.  I don’t know or much care about the political views of Pride, Paisley, or Krauss or even about the musical tastes of Obama.  None of it mattered last night.

And while there are obvious parallels in Pride and Obama as “firsts,” I’m willing to bet Obama never got traded for a used bus.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I suppose Robert Plant didn’t accompany Alison Krauss?