Celebrities at White House to Honor Musical Legend

Tribute to Ray Charles Airs Friday

Jussie Smollett laughs after First Lady Michelle Obama called him "cute" durng her introduction prior to the student workshop at White House. Smollett and other musical stars performed tribute to musical legend Ray Charles.  Photo by Cheriss May, Howard University News Service

Ray Charles

WASHINGTON – Gospel star and radio host Yolanda Adams, soul/R&B singers Leon Bridges and Andra Day, singer, model and Disney Channel actress Demi Lovato, actor and singer Jussie Smollett from the popular television series “Empire” came together Wednesday for the final in a series of musical performances hosted by the White House.

Their performances later that day, which will include Usher and Band Perry, are to honor recording artist Ray Charles, whose 50-year musical legacy included pop, country, jazz, blues and R&B. 

 Leon Bridges performs tribute to Ray Charles.at White House before show.
Photo by Cheriss May, Howard University News Service

The program is to be broadcast Friday on PBS stations nationwide as "Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House."

The first lady, who quipped about how “cute” Smollett, told the 100 students invited to the White House to interact with the artists during workshops, that like Charles, they could overcome whatever obstacles they faced to achieve their goals.

She told them how Charles was blind by age 7 and orphaned by 15, yet still went on to perform for seven presidents and win 17 Grammy awards.

 “No matter who you are or what challenges you face, you all have the power to get from those seats down there to these seats up here or anywhere else you want to go,” Obama said, as she shared some obstacles each of the panelists had overcome, including Bridges’ fear of crowds and Lovato’s struggle with mental health.