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Obama sings with Usher at White House Ray Charles tribute

TRIBUTE: Ray Charles was honoured at the White House

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama joined singers Usher and Anthony Hamilton on stage as they paid tribute to the late Ray Charles at the White House last night.

At the beginning of the event he assured the audience that he would not be singing, but the President of the United States just couldn't help himself.

Paying tribute to the late Ray Charles, Obama led the crowd in a sing-a-long at the last instalment of the In Performance at the White House.

Yesterday's (Feb 24) show included performances by Yolanda Adams, Leon Bridges, Andra Day, Anthony Hamilton, Brittany Howard, Demi Lovato, Sam Moore, Jussie Smollett, The Band Perry and Usher, with Rickey Minor as executive music director.

The hour-long program, part of the Emmy Award-nominated In Performance at the White House series, is the 56th production in the series' thirty-eight-year history.

SOUL: Usher (left) sings with President Barack Obama

The audience booed playfully when Obama mentioned during his welcoming remarks that Wednesday’s programme is the final In Performance event of his administration.

“Over the past seven years, Michelle and I have set aside nights like this to celebrate the music that shaped America,” he said, adding that it had become one of their most-cherished traditions. “I will not sing. But for our last one, it is fitting that we pay tribute to one of our favourites.”

First Lady Michelle Obama said the event would be “a little bittersweet for all of us” because it’s the final one.

The Obamas have hosted more than a dozen In Performance events, including the tribute to Charles.

During the tribute, Obama noted that Charles grew up in the segregated South, his early years coloured by poverty and tragedy. But, the President said, Charles had two things working in his favour: a strong mother and music.

He quoted Charles as once saying that he was born with music inside of him, and noted that Charles’ career encompassed every genre, including jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, country and soul.

“Whatever genre of music he was playing, there was no mistaking his singular sound: that virtuoso piano playing that matched that one-of-a-kind voice,” Obama said at the White House.

Charles, who lost his sight as a child, died in June 2004.

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