Jon Batiste to headline Biden’s first state dinner, serenade Macron

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Who is it? This is Jon Batiste, originally from New Orleans, will soon be on stage at the White House.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have tapped the singer, bandleader and melodica player extraordinaire as their musical performer for their first official state dinner, the first lady’s press secretary Vanessa Valdivia says. , at the Washington Post.

This means that when French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte turn up as guests of honor for a day of diplomacy, followed by a sumptuous dinner and dance party on Thursday, they will be part of a real night out in New Orleans. . It’s not yet clear whether Batiste will jump on any table, like he did to Billie Eilish’s delight at this year’s Grammys, but he’ll likely serenade Macron with his hit song “Freedom ” and a joyous parade of trumpets, tambourines and a mouth-piano.

“An artist who transcends generations, Jon Batiste’s music inspires and brings people together. We’re thrilled he’s performing at the White House for the Biden-Harris administration’s first state dinner,” Valdivia told The Post.

Batiste’s boundless energy and boisterous performance is befitting a White House that is back in social business after two years of battling covid, rising inflation and economic woes in a year of crisis. midterm elections – a context in which a glamorous dinner in honor of a visiting head of state would have seemed particularly awkward. Biden, however, continues to face criticism for declaring in September that the “pandemic is over” even as hundreds of people continue to die every day and the public grows weary of being vigilant against covid.

But the political mood is strong right now. The midterm elections went better than expected for Democrats. It’s the first year since Biden took office that the White House will have a full holiday season — key for low-pressure encounters with the press, allies and antagonists — and to show the the first lady’s holiday decorations, which will be unveiled on Monday.

The couple have just planned the pre-Thanksgiving wedding of their granddaughter, Naomi Biden and face the dismay of the White House press corps, which was barred from covering it while Vogue was given an exclusive feature and photo shoot. Photo.

The Biden administration is on track to host the fewest state dinners — typically planned by the first lady’s office — of any modern presidency. It will be necessary hosts just one more on par with former President Donald Trump, who had to cancel his third state dinner at the start of the pandemic.

Trump’s first state dinner was also with Macron. The previous president, however, constantly facing problems getting musical acts to play for his events. For his Macron State Dinner, the musical entertainment was the Washington National Opera. At his second state dinner for then Australian President Scott Morrison, bands from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines performed.

During good times, former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted 12 state dinners during his first term, and 29 in total, with musical guests such as Whitney Houston, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. , Liza Minnelli and Earth, Wind & Fire. The Bushes followed with four in his first term (including one for Mexican President Vicente Fox a few days before 9/11) and 13 in total, featuring artists such as country singer Kenny Chesney, violinist Itzhak Perlman and the cast of “The Lion”. King.”

Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have arguably had the hippest and most up-to-date musical guests at their 13 state dinners (six in that first year): Beyoncé, Janelle Monae, Mumford and Sons, John Legend, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ne-Yo, Demi Lovato, Gwen Stefani and more. Their first state dinner, for Indian President Manmohan Singh, saw Jennifer Hudson perform but was marred by tales of door knockers.

Batiste, at 36, is arguably the most acclaimed musician in the country right now. In April, he was nominated for 11 Grammys in seven categories – a first in Grammys history – and won five, including album of the year for “We Are”. Batiste has was known for staging second-line parades, with marching bands dancing in the streets, everywhere from New Orleans to New York.

Two years ago, he won the Oscar for Best Original Score for Pixar’s “Soul,” which he wrote with fellow composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. He is only the third black composer in history, after jazz legend Herbie Hancock and pop star Prince, to win an Oscar for composition.

Race in America: giving voice with Jon Batiste

He’s now halfway through an EGOT – the term for winning all four of America’s major entertainment awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) – a coveted title that only 17 other people have won.

Batiste will be the first act from New Orleans to perform at the White House since former President George W. Bush had the famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band play for Singh in 2005. Batiste left his gig as bandleader. orchestra of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in August to focus on his other work.

The Bidens have plenty of reasons to choose Batiste, a native New Orleans son who came from a musical family and grew up in jazz, the only true American art form. But there is also its connection to cancer, a disease that has deeply affected the Bidens and which their administration is working to eradicate.

In February this year, Batiste married his partner of eight years, Suleika Jaouad, a day before his bone marrow transplant for his second battle with leukemia. Jaouad, 33, who is undergoing chemotherapy and is the author of the best-selling cancer memoir, “Between Two Worlds”, met Batiste when they were teenagers at a gang camp.

They reconnected when, during his first battle with cancer, he showed up at the hospital with his entire band. “Every square inch of the floor in the 25 rooms was filled with music,” Jaouad wrote in a column for a New York Times blog. Timidly at first, then jubilantly, patients, nurses and other hospital staff began to dance and applaud.

They got married in the new house they had been designing for three years. The couple used bread ties around their fingers because they hadn’t had time to make rings. They used phone pranks to get through the first 72 hours after his transplant. The couple have two new dogs, one of which harmonizes with Batiste as he plays the piano.

She wore a pink wig to celebrate Batiste’s birthday in November, which turned into an “impromptu jam until dawn,” she wrote on her Instagram account.

Batiste called their marriage “an act of defiance” and said cancer did not interrupt the plans they had for their lives.

“C’est la vie,” Batiste told CBS News in April of the struggles he faced as he reached career heights. “That’s it. Buckle up.

Get ready for a second row at the White House.

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