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President Honors Black Musicians

June 29, 2001

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush paid tribute to black music Friday by staging a White House gospel concert before an audience of artists whose work ranged from jazz to soul.

Bush held the East Room ceremony in recognition of Black Music Month. He signed a proclamation and singled five artists out for special honors: Gospel singer Shirley Caesar, gospel TV host Bobby Jones, jazz singers Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson, and jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton.

Horne and Wilson were not present. Hampton, who is in his 90s, watched from his wheelchair. Standing out in the crowd were soul singer James Brown, singer/composer Isaac Hayes and the Four Tops.

Bush noted that Hampton performed at the inaugural ball for President Truman in 1949 and had been to the White House previously as guests of Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Reagan. ``Presidents come and go, but there’s only one ‘vibes’ president of the United States,″ Bush said.

``You trace the roots of black American music, you arrive at the same place _ with a people held in bondage, denied schooling and kept away from opportunity,″ Bush said. ``Yet out of all that suffering came the early spirituals, some of the sweetest praise ever lifted up to heaven. In those songs, humanity will always hear the voice of hope in the face of injustice.″

The tone of the tribute was decidedly gospel. Two students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts sang a spiritual, singer Regina Belle performed ``God Will Take Care of You″ and a capella group Take 6 sang ``Mary Don’t You Weep.″

Afterward, Brown greeted Bush by holding up a white T-shirt that read, ``Killing is Out, School is In.″

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