*Village of Harlem, New York — On Thursday evening, January 19, 2012, The Obama Victory Fund 2012 hosted an “Obama Victory Fund 2012 Concert” starring neo-soul singer India.Arie, legendary soul singer Al Green, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, and featuring President Barack Obama.
The president was in town to make a whirlwind of appearances to raise funds for his 2012 re-election campaign by attending several fundraisers in New York City; but it was his amazing appearance at The Apollo Theater that put this town in a frenzied lockdown and caused social network gridlock.
After taking the stage at the legendary theater where stars are born and dreams come true, the president started to thank the hosts of the successful campaign effort and the evening performers.
Then, in looking up at the box in which the performers were seated, he started to croon the first line of Al Green’s hit song “Let’s Stay Together” to the delight of the crowd!
“I – I – I’m so-o-o in love with you,” the Crooner-in-Chief sang in a soft mellow voice drawing raucous applause from the crowd — and rave reviews from voice coaches.
Then pointing to his staff at the side of the stage he laughingly said, “Those guys didn’t think I would do it. I told you I was going to do it.” The president also pointed out that he did not get the signature sweep off stage. “And the Sandman did not come out,” he playfully said which sent the crowd to the moon! They went ballistic!
Turning back to the crowd, President Obama pointed to Green. “Don’t worry, Rev. I cannot sing like you,” he quipped. “I just wanted to show my appreciation.” Green said he was thrilled the President mentioned him.
President Obama channeled his inner Al Green in front of some 1,400 supporters who packed the historic Harlem Theater starting at $100 a pop.
Although President Obama was not the first musically inclined president – Clinton had his sax; Nixon and Truman played piano; Wilson played the violin; John Adams played the flute; Jefferson was a multi-instrumentalist serving up tunes on cello, clavichord and violin; and Chester A. Arthur totally rocked the banjo – he has the distinction of being the first and only president to perform on the legendary Apollo stage.
As a result of the president’s showstopping number, sales of Green’s classic single “Let’s Stay Together” have gone up by almost 500 percent; the impromptu a cappella performance is now available as a ringtone on his official website; and the ringtone captures eight seconds of the President singing the song’s hook – “I-I’m, so-o-o in love with you” – and can be downloaded for free in files compatible with iPhones and other smartphones.
A video clip of the moment went viral almost immediately upon hitting the internet last week, resulting in Apollo Theater historian Billy Mitchell admitting that he has seen performances by a slew of music icons such as James Brown and Michael Brown, but he described Obama’s singing as the theater’s “biggest moment.”
“The feeling of being in that room when he sang those notes was electrifying,” said Apollo Theater president & CEO Jonelle Procope. “It was a uniquely Apollo moment.”
The Apollo was the third stop in a trio of New York fundraisers starting with several dinners starting out with an invitational only dinner at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Upper East Side restaurant, Daniel, to reportedly meet with Jewish leaders at a reception, with tickets ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
There was also an exclusive second event at Daniel’s sister restaurant for 60 guests who dished out at least $15,000 per person. The president told diners that the election is “going to be a tough race, regardless of who they nominate.”
Then he was off to an ultimate sit-down dinner at the Upper East Side brownstone of filmmaker Spike Lee and his attorney wife Tonya Lee Lewis that drew a reported 45 powerful people including Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon who paid $38,500 (the maximum legal limit) per ticket to attend a party.
Lee presented the president with a pair of customized “Spizikes” made by iconic basketball player Michael Jordan that carried the Presidential seal. The $175 sneakers are not yet in stores. President Obama revealed that he and the future First Lady Michelle Obama went to see Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing, on their first date.
The presidential campaigning for re-election raised an impressive $3.1 million during the day he spent campaigning in New York City; and that’s what I’d call “singing for your supper.”
Prior to his unforgettable trip to New York City, President Obama visited Walt Disney World in Florida to announce initiatives aimed at increasing U.S. travel and tourism.
The president’s speech in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom makes him just the fourth sitting president in the last 34 years to visit a Walt Disney World theme park
Just like at The Apollo Theater, the president gave a memorable appearance with an opening joke which garnered big laughs. “I’m excited to meet Mickey. It’s always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me,” he said.
Then the president unveiled a strategy he says “will significantly help boost tourism and travel, an important sector in the U.S. economy.”
“America is open for business,” President Obama said. ”We want to welcome you.”
The president said tourists are drawn not only to Disney, but to America’s natural wonders and historic landmarks.
“We’ve got the most entertaining destinations in the world. This is a land of extraordinary wonders, from the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Canyon to Yosemite,” President Obama said. ”I’m here today because I want more tourists here tomorrow. I want America to be the top tourism destination in the world.”
According to the narrative, the plan is part of the president’s “We Can’t Wait” agenda to aid job growth, with a focus on Central Florida’s most crucial industry. The president’s executive order directs his administration to find ways to get more international guests to America — that includes making it easier for tourists to visit.
“We will always protect our shores and our borders and our tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm, and unfortunately such people exist. And that’s not going to change. But we also want to get more international tourists coming to America, and there’s no reason we can’t do both,” President Obama said.
The president’s order includes expansion of the global entry program. Frequent travelers right now can bypass immigration by submitting to extensive background checks. This will be made available to more international travelers.
The presidential order will also allow citizens from countries to visit the US without a tourist visa. It will process tourists’ visas for citizens in China and Brazil at least a 40 percent faster rate starting this year.
“We want everyone to come, all who are watching. Disney World and Florida are open for business, but we want people all around the world to know the same,” President Obama said to wild applause.
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.