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By its very definition, popular music is fleeting.
Rarely is it composed with an eye towards standing the test of time.
Rarer still does it actually achieve that distinction.
And that's what makes Paul McCartney's career so legendary.
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly half a century
since 4 lads from liverpool first landed on our shores and
changed everything overnight.
The Gershwin Prize ..
It's kind of unbelievable for me, really.
Because having admired
uh... that music, the Gershwin brothers' music,
from as far back as I can remember,
I would get the prize is stunning, really.
My dad and mum would have loved it,
my dad particularly because he was a musician
the Gershwin era was his era.
I think probably a lot of my love for music
was just listening to him
in the background. You know, just lying on the carpet just listening to him play piano.
I mean, I've done a lot of things in my career,
but never this.
If you'd have said to me as kid in Liverpool
listening to my dad
play stuff or listening to the radio
if you'd said to me, "one day
you'll be in the Library of Congress and you will get
the Gershwin Prize,"
I definitely wouldn't have believed you.
Where's the President? Right there. Oh, my god! that's too close.
Oh, no. that is close. That's close.
What was that? [Woman speaks indistinctly] shoot. yeah, I'm ok.
I just love music.
and it really doesn't matter what
style of music it is,
you know, and I'm very grateful for that 'cause I'm not blinkered.
You know, it can be
a fantastic Tchaikovsky piece or it can be Fred Astaire or it can be Django Reinhardt
or it could be Elvis.
and you know...
it could be the Beatles.
Here we are. Welcome to the White House.
We're gonna have some fun tonight.
We're gonna stomp, we're gonna stroll, we're gonna rock, we're gonna roll.
Yeah, I've been to the Kremlin. I've been to Buckingham Palace.
I've been around.
But to go to the White House is
something I've never done,
and I've been showing off.
You know, I've been telling the mums at the school,
it's a biggie.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Welcome to the White House.
Please welcome, Jerry Seinfeld.
SIR Paul McCartney...
Let me say
just how honored I am to be part of this landmark event in this magnificent
setting, here in the east room
of the white house as SIR Paul McCartney receives the Gershwin
prize for lifetime achievement in songwriting, or as I think we could have
called it in this particular case... Duh! " [laughter]
I also have to say, if I may be completely honest, that
I'm not that big on prizes.
The problem being that the word "prize" is used to cover
just too broad a range of things.
You knock over 3 milk bottles with a baseball, you get a prize.
The water gun in the clown's mouth, you get a prize.
Nobel has a prize. I think there's one of those around here ... [Laughter] somewhere.
Cracker jacks has a prize. Publishers Clearing House has cash
So it's a little all over the place.
Not to mention the fact that he's already a Sir.
And not an "I'm sorry, sir, there's no more compact cars available.
Kind of Sir. He's a real Sir. When Paul mcCartney steps up to the
enterprise counter " they mean it.
And when he returns that car and the attendant says, "excuse me, sir, you left
your Gershwin Prize on the back seat"
that's when you know you've really made it.
You got the sir, you got the cash, you got the prizes.
Sir Paul, you have written
some of the most beautiful music ever heard by humans in this world.
It's my favorite music that I've ever heard
in my life
I love you for it.
And yet, some of the lyrics
of some of the songs, as they go by you, can make one
unsure, even concerned sometimes, about what exactly is happening in this song?
Songs such as, "I saw her standing there" and I quote,
"She was just 17,
you know what I mean"
[laughter] I'm not sure I do know what you mean, Sir Paul.
I think I know what you mean.
Getting Better from Sergeant Pepper
"I used to be cruel to my woman. "I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loves ".
Same woman by any chance?
I'm kidding, of course. And I can because Paul and I have gotten to know each
other a little bit over the years.
That's how I got this gig.
But what makes him the unparalleled artist that he is is that
the world has also gotten to know him
through his unforgettable music.
We've followed your life story.
In the beginning, a young man who said, "I want to hold your hand",
"All my loving" "I feel fine", "Please, please me".
A little self-involved, but what the hell?
You're in show business, a good-looking guy, thin, why not?
Then marriage and family, and it changed a little.
"The long and winding road"-- oh, my god.
"Penny lane" -- just glad to be out of the house getting a haircut.
"Fixing a hole where the rain gets in"-- these are husband lyrics, ladies and gentlemen.
"And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong, " this is an argument.
More husband songs followed like, "Get back",
"help", and of course, would you just "Let it be"?
[Laughter] but that's what marriage is.
And it's a beautiful thing, marriage.
It's two people, that's it.
Trying to stay together, without saying the words, "I hate you".
That is your goal. You never say those 3 words. You say other things.
Things like, "why is there never any scotch tape "in this house?
"Scotch" is "I". "Tape" is "hate".
"House" is "you".
But it's an improvement.
It's better to say, "you know no normal human being leaves
the bathroom floor that wet
than "you're stubbing out my soul like a " " you say,
"you're so funny sometimes,
and you feel better.
And Sir Paul, you've made us all
feel better for so many years with your incredible talent. Thank you
We love you,
Please welcome, Corinne Bailey Rae and Herbie Hancock
I was asked if I would like to say something. And of course,
I would just like to say this.
Music is often an
us- against-them proposition.
The next song
you're going to hear
is named after a place
from which my mother comes from about
a half a mile away.
So you can imagine when this thing of wonder and beauty
came on the radio.
Myself as a young man, my dad, my mam,
and the cat-- [laughter] all stood up and took notice.
And I think it's a beautiful way that all songs unite us.
Thank you. I love you.
And thank you for your songs and your friendship.
On the piccolo trumpet master Sergeant Mathew Harding, of the President's own United States Marine Band.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Emmylou Harris.
Performing Paul McCartney's "Celebrations" Lang Lang.
Please welcome, Dave Grohl.
I have to say I'm a native of the
Washington DC area
And so, I grew up in the area. I've probably played every club and every basement and every arena
and every stadium.
You're definitely my hero.
you are my other hero.
[Laughter] thanks for having me.
Once again, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney
This is such an exciting evening.
I've got to say that
a person who was with motown
in the very beginning when I was 11 years old
was the one that brought me
he told me about this song that paul McCartney wanted to do a song with me.
I said, "well bring it on.
and when he told me the actual title of the song,
I said it would be my joy.
It was such a joy, Paul, doing that song with you at Montserrat.
.. driving cars and flying planes.
[Laughter] --it's true--. I love you to pieces.
To present the Library of Congress Gershwin prize,
The President of the United States
The show's not over. [Audience chuckling]
from all the genres and backgrounds who
to pay tribute to THE
ONE AND ONLY
SIR Paul McCartney, thank you so much. [Applause]
We also want to thank the gershwin family,
as well as The Library of Congress
as well as James Billington,
as well as PBS,
for helping to
put this together. you know Doctor
Billington has done extraordinary
work at the Library of Congress,
and his deep commitment to preserving america's cultural heritage
for future generations is something that we all treasure.
Even as we gather here tonight to present this annual award for
extraordinary contributions to
american music and culture
that's right; we stole you, Paul. [Laughter]
it goes without saying that
this has been a very difficult time.
We've gone through a difficult year and a half, and right now,
our thoughts and our prayers are with
friends in another part of the country
that is so rich in musical heritage,
with the people of the gulf coast,
who are dealing with
something that we
simply have not seen before.
And it's heartbreaking.
We reaffirm, I think, together our commitment
to see to it that their lives
and their communities are made whole again. But-- [applause]
but part of what gets us through tough times is music: the Arts;
the ability to capture
kernel of ourselves, that
part of us
that sings even
when times are hard.
And it's fitting that the Library has chosen to present this year's
Gershwin prize for popular song
to a man whose father played Gershwin compositions for him on the piano,
a man who grew up to become
the most successful songwriter in history,
Sir Paul McCartney. Now, by-- [applause]
by its very definition, popular music is fleeting.
Rarely is it composed with an eye
toward standing the test of time.
Rarer, still, does it actually achieve that distinction.
And that's what makes
Paul's career so legendary.
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly half a century
since 4 lads from liverpool first landed on our shores
and changed everything overnight.
I have to share this story: While we were sitting here,
I learned that the bass that Paul was playing onstage
is the same bass that he played
at "The Ed Sullivan Show"-- [laughter]
told me it cost him ££30?
He says he suspects it's worth a little more now. [Audience laughter]
but the Beatles,
they weren't the first rock stars.
They'd be the first to say that others had
that door for them,
but they blew the walls down
for everybody else.
In a few short years, they had changed the way that we listened to music,
thought about music
and performed music forever.
They helped to lay the soundtrack
for an entire generation,
an era of endless possibility and of great change.
He's composed hundreds of songs over the years,
with John Lennon
or on his own.
Nearly 200 of those songs made the charts --think about that--
and stayed on the charts for a cumulative total of 32 years. [Laughter, into applause]
and his gifts have touched billions of lives.
As he later confessed of the Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show,"
where he carried that
that one evening that changed everything
Paul said, "luckily, we didn't
know what America was.
"We just knew our dream of it"
my distinct pleasure
to present America's
highest award for popular music
on behalf of a grateful nation
that a young englishman
shared his dreams with us.
Sir Paul McCartney
[Man speaking indistinctly] Congratulations.
This is such a
fantastic evening for me.
I mean getting this prize would just be good enough.
but getting it from this President...
president said, you know, we're going through difficult times on a
But when I knew I was coming here tonight,
I knew I had to say
that even though we all know
you've got lots of really difficult issues to deal with,
I just wanted you to know
you have billions of us
who are rooting for you,
and we know you're gonna come through.
So I was gonna say, for all of us--me and the band-- it just is
so special, right, guys?
[Applause] and the
it just is so special.
And the guests
who've come along
and honored me by singing my songs
I just love the interpretations. You can imagine, for me,
and then hearing them their way,
t's really inspiring, and I want to thank them very much for doing that.
Beautiful. Really nice thing.
The next song we'd like to do is a song I have been itching to do
at the White House
and I hope
the President will forgive me
if I sing this one.
I could be the first guy ever to be punched out by a President. [Laughter]
[Wolf whistle] that's my kids.
Come on, mary. I want to hear the whistle. Come on, this is my-- [Mary whistles] McCartney: Right.
She did it.
This has been such a great honor for us all.
And at the press conference, they said to me,
This is special for you
and I don't think
there could be anything more special
for us to play here,
and we're thinking of making it a regular thing.
Lunch times. we're cheap.
Great acoustics. love it.