Civil Rights Concert at the White House

WASHINGTON - Crediting civil rights-era protest songs and their spiritual predecessors for his election, President Barack Obama on Tuesday sat in the East Room of his White House and listened to an all-star lineup of performers pay tribute to the music that he said fueled freedom marches and civil disobedience.

The nation's first black president transformed the grand ballroom into a concert hall packed with members of his Cabinet, Congress, civil rights leaders and students for a program that will air on public television later this week for Black History Month.

Queen Latifah's rendition of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On" and Yolanda Adams' spirited rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" were early highlights of a night that continued the Obamas' effort to open the White House to America's soundtrack.

Chris Richards of the Washington Post reported:

The White House has played host to scores of musicians since President Obama took office last year, but the talent assembled at snowy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Tuesday night delivered the most stirring concert there yet.

The concert, dubbed "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement," featured a spectrum of performances that included such legends and stars as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, John Mellencamp, Yolanda Adams and Jennifer Hudson.

The event originally was scheduled for Wednesday night, but the foreboding prospect of yet more snowfall prompted White House organizers to move up the event 24 hours.

Onstage, no one seemed rushed -- especially not Dylan. Giving his first performance at the White House, America's most iconic pop songwriter ambled onstage and dragged his wonderful, weather-beaten voice over a handsome piano and bass arrangement of "The Times They Are A-Changin'." After the song, there was an awkward pause, a handshake with the president and a hasty exit.