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The Rant

On that fabulous "Memphis Soul" show at the White House ...

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Okay, so by the time this comes out I might be able to peel myself off the ceiling, because the PBS In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul special will have aired on WKNO and will have been screened at the Malco Paradiso and the overdrive gear I've been in might shift a little more into neutral, but I hope not.

Timberlake and Cropper
  • Timberlake and Cropper

And I hope the city and everyone who lives here picks up on the momentum and keeps it going.

Those of you who read this column with any regularity (regularity in reading, of course) know that I work at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and the Soulsville Charter School. And PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY BARACK AND MICHELLE OBAMA, uh, hosted a "Memphis Soul" concert at the WHITE HOUSE! Are you kidding me? During the year of the Stax Museum's 10th anniversary? President Obama spent more than six minutes opening the show talking about the incredible awesomeness of Stax Records and Hi Records and how they not only created some of the best music in the world but also helped bridge the racial divide when the integrated musicians couldn't eat at the same restaurants. Standing there in black tie, he told the crowd that because this is his second term he was going to forget "Hail to the Chief" and use Booker T. & the MGs' "Green Onions"? Are you freaking kidding me?

I may be in a home for the too excited by the time this column comes out. Just pray that I don't try to jump from the old bridge to the new bridge in a single bound. And I haven't even seen the concert as of this writing. Memphis as the fattest city, poorest city, dirtiest city ... whatever that list is — how about the effen coolest city and the city being celebrated at the White House?

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! (That was a scream, not a sigh.) AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! again!

Does everybody understand what this is going to do for Memphis? By the time this special is re-aired over the next few years, it will have been seen by more than 600 million people. It is also going to be broadcast all over the world on the Armed Forces Network (it actually has a longer name than that and is sometimes referred to as "A-FARTS," but we won't go there).

The show, in case you missed it, featured Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite, Alabama Shakes, and others, all paying tribute to the music made right here in our own backyard. Did I mention this was at the White House with the president and first lady? And just come on with the online comments. Voice your opinions that while the country is falling apart the president is having a concert party paid for by your tax dollars. Because this has already been written about extensively in publications such as Rolling Stone, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and every other major publication in the country, that kind of bitter, ridiculous, inaccurate drivel is out there already.

Surprisingly, most of the local comments I've read in response to the concert coverage haven't gone down that mealy-mouthed path. The concert was not paid for with your tax dollars. It was paid for through very expensive sponsorship dollars that WETA-TV (D.C.'s PBS affiliate) raises. So don't bitch about it. I think we need a little Memphis soul music in the White House to loosen things up and let everybody let their hair down for an hour. It wasn't like the president wasn't out working his presidential backside off for stronger gun control laws until an hour before the taping and resumed an hour afterward.

The best part of all this for me was a moment here in Memphis before the big event, when I got to tell two students who attend the Soulsville Charter School and Stax Music Academy that they were going to be headed to the White House in a couple of days. Now, THAT is the way to have a great day. For me, it far outshined any other aspect of this whole tremendously good deal. To have some paperwork turned upside down on a conference room table, call them in, and tell them that they are in potentially big trouble, and then flip the papers over and say, "Unless you get these signed tonight — because you are going to the White House!" is something I've never done before and may never get the chance to do again, and it made me feel like I had hit the lottery. Memphis soul at the White House. I guess it was kinda, sorta okay. AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

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