Elton John's WH Concert Ends With a Big Surprise

President Biden presented 75-year-old singer with National Humanities Medal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2022 9:00 AM CDT
'Flabbergasted' Elton John Gets a Surprise From Biden
President Biden speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Friday after presenting Elton John with the National Humanities Medal, as first lady Jill Biden listens.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Elton John is currently on his farewell tour after a half-century of performing, and he made an extra-special stop on Friday night: the White House. The 75-year-old singer appeared as a guest of President Biden and first lady Jill Biden for a performance meant to help honor "everyday history makers" such as nurses, teachers, students, activists, and emergency and mental health workers, per the New York Times. But it was John himself, after playing hits like "Tiny Dancer" and "Rocket Man," who received an especially big honor. President Biden presented the singer with the National Humanities Medal, awarded to individuals or groups "whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities" and "broadened our citizens' engagement" in that sphere.

The Guardian notes that John was "visibly shocked" by the recognition. "I'm never flabbergasted but I'm flabbergasted," he said, per the Times. Biden is apparently a big fan, noting in his 2017 memoir Promise Me, Dad that he would sing "Crocodile Rock" to his sons when they were boys, and that he also sang it to son Beau Biden when he was dying of cancer. "I started singing the lyrics to Beau, quietly, so just the two of us could hear it," the elder Biden wrote, per the AP. "Beau didn't open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling."

On Friday night, Biden had kind words for John, who performed in front of a crowd that included the likes of not only the "everyday history makers," but also big names like activist Malala Yousafzai and tennis legend Billie Jean King. "[Irish poet] Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote, 'Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme," Biden said. "Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been that tidal wave, a tidal wave to help people rise up and make hope and history rhyme." John hasn't performed at the White House since 1998. (More Elton John stories.)

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