WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 on Thursday night.
"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)" She was back later to close down the show with what Obama called "one more treat," — a slow, soulful rendition of "Amazing Grace" that turned rowdy at the end.
But first, all the other ladies — including Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott and Tessanne Chin — collaborated on a rollicking delivery of "Proud Mary."