Having already dominated the Grammy Awards, late-night television and the Billboard 200, Justin Timberlake rode his rolling promotional juggernaut to the White House on Tuesday night, taking part in an all-star tribute to Memphis soul along with Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones and Queen Latifah, among others.
And, yes, he wore his suit and tie.
The invite-only concert, to be broadcast April 16 on PBS, was the latest installment in a series of “In Performance at the White House” events that have seen President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrate country music, Motown and the work of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
According to the Washington Post, Tuesday’s gig featured renditions of “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” by Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) and “You Don’t Miss Your Water” by William Bell. Timberlake, a Memphis native, did Otis Redding’s "(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” with guitar by Steve Cropper, who co-wrote the tune and played on the original record. (Watch the performance below.)
“This is the music that asked us to try a little tenderness,” President Obama said in his introductory remarks, Entertainment Weekly reported. “It’s the music that put Mr. Big Stuff in his place. And it’s the music that challenged us to accept new ways of thinking with four timeless words: ‘Can you dig it?’ ”
Timberlake, Staples and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite also took part in a discussion with students Tuesday in the White House’s State Dining Room, where Staples nailed down the difference between soul music and the gospel tradition it grew out of: “Rather than saying ‘Jesus,’ you’re saying ‘baby.’ ”
Sounds about right.
Follow Mikael Wood on Twitter: @mikaelwood