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The Obama White House’s favorite showbiz guests, from Aretha to Common

🕐 4 min read

Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he and first lady Michelle Obama have welcomed hundreds of performers to 1600 PennsylvaniaAve. Some came for one-on-one official visits, but most arrived to perform in the PBS co-hosted series “In Performance at the White House,”oras guests at one of the 13 state dinners. And a select few attended the Obamas’ off-the-record and personally funded soirees.

But what’s most interesting isn’t the number of celebrities who have walked the halls – Ronald and Nancy Reagan hosted many more – it’s the variety of the guests. For every Beyoncé, Jay Z and Blue Ivy who rolled an Easter egg, there was Jose Feliciano, Keb Mo and Emmylou Harris onstage. And while the story of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first visit in 2009 at “An Evening of Poetry, Music and Spoken Word” – where he performed an early version of what would become the opening song from his musical “Hamilton” – has become the stuff of legend, spoken word artist Mayda Del Valle was also there that night.

As Obama nears the end of his second term, there have been many of-the-moment artists who have made headlines for their single visits to the White House – Rhianna’s “Instagram” tour, Bradley Cooper and his tight pants at the French State Dinner, Kendrick Lamar at the president’s birthday bash. But it’s the non-superstars and veterans whom the Obamas tend to invite over again and again for social functions. Here are a few of the other artists in that category whohave made multiple visits to the White House. (Common and James Taylor top the list of artists, with five official visits each.)

– Common

Known for: The rapper turned actor, activist and Oscar-winner, like FLOTUS, calls the Southsideof Chicago home.

White House visits:

A Celebration of American Poetry, May 11, 2011

A Salute to the Troops, Nov. 6, 2014

“Selma” movie screening, Jan. 15, 2015

Nordic State Dinner, May 13, 2016

President’s 55’s birthday party, Aug. 5, 2016

– James Taylor

Known for: The singer-songwriter recorded hits like “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”

White House Visits:

Germany State Dinner, June 7, 2011

In Performance: Country Music, Nov. 16, 2011

National Tree Lighting, Dec. 6, 2012

Prince/Stevie Wonder concert, June 19, 2015

In Performance American Creativity, Jan. 8, 2016

– John Legend

Known for: The Grammy-winning singer and activist won a Oscar with Common for their song “Glory,” from 2014 movie “Selma.”

White House visits:

Civil Rights Movement, Feb. 8, 2010

United Kingdom State Dinner, March 14, 2012

President Obama’s 55th Birthday party, Aug. 8, 2016

– Stevie Wonder

Known for: Being Stevie Wonder, a Motown and R&B legend, and singing the cool version of “Happy Birthday to You.” He’s also a favorite of the Obamas for their we-paid-for-it-with-our-own-funds events.

White House Visits:

Motown Sound, Feb. 24, 2011

Prince and Stevie Wonder concert, June 19, 2015

President Obama’s 55th Birthday party, Aug. 8, 2016

– Queen Latifah

Known for: In the late ’80s and early ’90s, she was chart-topping rapper and the star of her own sitcom, “Living Single.” She went on to get a daytime talk show and an Oscar nomination for her role in “Chicago.”

White House Visits:

In Performance: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement, Feb. 9, 2010

In Performance: Memphis Soul, April 9, 2013

In Performance: American Creativity, Jan. 8, 2016

– Aretha Franklin

Known for: Being The Queen of Soul. And also the wearer of the gray hat with the large, rhinestone-studded bow that launched a thousand memes at Obama’s second inauguration.

White House Visits:

In Performance: The Gospel Tradition, June 26, 2015

Women of Soul, March 6, 2014

– Connie Britton

Known for: Being the Southern-fried matriach on “Friday Night Lights” and “Nashville,” which must be a favorite of the Obamas because Michelle made an appearance on “Nashville” in 2014 by way of a pre-recorded cameo.

White House Visits:

Prince and Stevie Wonder concert, June 19, 2015

Nordic Countries State Dinner, May 13, 2016

– Lyle Lovett

Known for: The Grammy wining country musican was briefly married to Julia Roberts.

White House Visits:

In Performance: Country Music, Nov. 11, 2011

In Performance: The Gospel Tradition, June 26, 2015

– Esperanza Spalding

Known for: The jazz bassist and cellist beat out Justin Bieber and Drake for the 2011 Grammy Award for best new artist.

White House Visits:

Evening of Poetry, Music and Spoken Word, May 12, 2009

In Performance: American Creativity, Jan. 8, 2016

– George Takei

Known for: Starring as Sulu on “Star Trek.” But to people of a certain generation he’s “the funniest guy on Facebook.”

White House Visits:

France State Dinner, Feb. 10, 2014

Japan State Dinner, April 24, 2015

– Keb’ Mo’

Known for: He’s won the Grammy for best blues album three times, for “Just Like You,” “Slow Down,” and “Keep it Simple.”

White House Visits:

Red, White and Blues, Feb. 21, 2012

In Performance: American Creativity, Jan 8, 2016

– Sam Moore

Known for: He’s a “Soul Man.”

White House Visits:

Memphis Soul, April 9, 2013

In Performance: Ray Charles, Feb. 25, 2016

Trombone Shorty

Known for: The trombone and trumpet player is the reason to go to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

White House Visits:

Red, White and Blues, Feb. 21, 2012

In Performance: American Creativity, Jan 8, 2016

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