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White House concert honors music of civil rights era

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive Tuesday at the concert honoring songs of the civil rights movement.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive Tuesday at the concert honoring songs of the civil rights movement.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • All-star lineup includes Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson
  • Others include the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Mellencamp, gospel singer Yolanda Adams
  • Concert was moved up to Tuesday because of a second round of snow in D.C. area
  • Actor Morgan Freeman served as master of ceremonies
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Washington (CNN) -- Civil rights songs were the soundtrack of the movement that helped bring President Obama to the White House. On Tuesday, Obama welcomed an array of artists to celebrate those songs.

An all-star lineup including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson, the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Mellencamp, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and others performed some of the best-known numbers from what Obama called the "soundtrack" of the civil rights movement.

The concert, "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement," was originally scheduled for Wednesday night but was moved to Tuesday as another snow storm moved into the Washington area. According to the White House Web site, the concert marked the beginning of the 2010 White House music series and celebrated Black History month.

Black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. decided on communities to organize when they saw the people were "disciplined and serious enough to be singing freedom songs," Obama said.

"It's hard to sing when times are rough," the president said.

The hymns of the civil rights movement "helped carry the cause of the people," Obama said.

Actor Morgan Freeman served as master of ceremonies for the program at the White House, which will be broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service. Highlight performances included Mellencamp on a rocking version of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," and Joan Baez with a spiritual "We Shall Overcome."

Robinson sang an emotional version of "Abraham, Martin and John," and Dylan played an acoustic guitar on a raspy voiced "Times They Are a-Changin'."

The Blind Boys of Alabama led the room of dignitaries including first lady Michelle Obama and presidential daughters Malia and Sasha, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and others in a rousing version of "Free at Last," eventually joined on stage by the other performers and Obama.

 
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