Obama couldn't hold back tears while watching Aretha Franklin's performance

Junie Sihlangu
Aug 20, 2018
10:01 A.M.
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Former President Barack Obama had a special bond with the late Aretha Franklin. He and his wife, Michelle Obama, were one of the people who shared a heartfelt statement when she passed away on Thursday.


The former president had a soft spot for the legendary musician long before he went into office. His reaction when she performs shows the immense respect and love he held for the star.

Barack and Michelle Obama took out a joint statement on Thursday after getting word of Aretha Franklin’s passing. In the statement, they shared that, “Aretha helped define the American experience.”

Barack's love for her music has been known for years. Franklin once attended one of Barack’s campaign events, and he acknowledged her presence by singing a couple of lines from "Chain of Fools" to the audience.

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine


For more on this story go to our Twitter account @amomama_usa. In 2009, she joined him for his inauguration, where she sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

Barack’s former assistant, Alyssa Mastromonaco, tweeted on Thursday that Franklin was his first-choice artist to perform at the inauguration. Six years later, the Queen of Soul performed at one of the White House's events called "Celebrating Gospel Music: 'Where Their Dreams Took Flight.’"


There she performed for nearly half an hour. An iconic moment between Franklin and Obama occurred during that same year at the Kennedy Center's tribute to Carole King.

The musician gave a surprise performance singing "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." This was a song that King wrote but is best known as Franklin's 1967 cover.

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine


The Obamas could be seen visibly moved throughout her performance. Barack even pumped his fist in the air during her high notes and wiped away a tear after the first verse.

"American history wells up when Aretha sings," the former president told The New Yorker after the event.

“That's why, when she sits down at a piano and sings 'A Natural Woman,' she can move me to tears," he explained. He shared that her rendition of the song "captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence."


Barack said he was so moved because “nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope."

Besides his joint statement with his wife when she passed, the former president also tweeted his own message to honor the star.

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine

Source: Getty images/GlobalimagesUkraine


In it, he shared "In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace."

Now the MTV Video Music Awards, airing on Monday, plans on honoring Franklin’s legacy. The show’s executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic said his team was "working on a lot of different options."

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