Last December I began this blog with the announcement that Sir Paul McCartney would be the recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Music. I chatted with four Library of Congress staff members who experienced Beatlemania in person. From the stands at the Beatles’ rehearsal for the Ed Sullivan show, to the screams that could be heard for blocks around Shea Stadium, their lives were personally touched by the Fab Four.
Last night was the night we were all waiting for: the chance to see Sir Paul in person! Demand was so high for seats in the Coolidge that many, including yours truly, saw the concert (and the honoree rehearsing “Yesterday” to a nearly empty house) on closed-circuit television in the Whittall Pavillion. You can read about the concert, which also featured the Loma Mar Quartet and pianist Lang Lang, on a variety of media outlets – the Washington Post’s article is here. But a post-concert, pre-dinner reception gave me and my friends a chance to rub elbows with some of the special guests in attendance. The big question was would we get to see a Beatle?
At the reception I pointed out Herbie Hancock to Wilbur King, a Visual Arts Examiner for the Copyright Office. Wilbur, a famed movie buff, wondered how he’d break the ice with the legendary jazz pianist (who is no stranger to the Library). Then he remembered, “Man, he did the soundtrack for [the movie] Blow-Up!” Hancock explained that when the film came out, he was stunned to see himself credited as Herbert Hancock. Ever since, he has made sure his name was credited as Herbie. Above, see Wilbur basking in the glow of Hancock and singer Corinne Bailey Rae.
Karen Lund, Digital Project Coordinator for the Music Division (and the person who recommended me for this blog – thanks, coach!), made sure I got a picture of her with drummer Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters). Karen told Grohl they used to work together at the late, lamented Tower Records. Grohl, a man who has performed in huge arenas, confessed that he was never as anxious as when he was running the cash register.
Recorded Sound Curator Matt Barton, who I hope will guest blog in this space soon, chatted with Jack White of The White Stripes. As for me, I introduced myself to Elvis Costello, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Herbie Hancock (a fellow camera-buff, he favors Canon, while I am a Nikon man), and nagged a Jonas brother for a picture. For my niece.
In one of the most unusual juxtapositions of the night, an impromptu discussion amongst Costello, Jack White, Emmylou Harris and Faith Hill happened right in front of the Giant Bible of Mainz, which dates from 15th century Europe and is one of the last great handwritten bibles produced before the Gutenberg Bible ushered in the age of the printing press. Only at the Library of Congress!
Also in the house last night were Jerry Seinfeld, former Gershwin Prize recipients Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon (the latter accompanied by his wife, Edie Brickell), and all three Jonas Brothers. These stars will fete the Knighted Beatle with a concert tonight at the White House, where Sir Paul will receive the Gershwin Prize from President Obama. The concert will be broadcast on PBS on July 28th.
Near the end of the evening, already besotted by stardust, we finally did get to see Sir Paul, whisked past us on his way to an official dinner in his honor. Thanks for stopping by Sir Paul!
Addendum: You can see video of President Obama presenting the Gershwin Prize to Sir Paul McCartney at Whitehouse.gov.
(h/t to Dr. Geraldine M. Otremba, Senior Advisor for Education, Office of the Librarian)