The 18 Most Entertaining Musical Performances by Politicians
In America, politics and music have been tied together since the very beginning. Benjamin Franklin played multiple instruments, including the violin, harp and guitar, and he even invented one: the glass harmonica. Thomas Jefferson, who played the violin, used music to woo his wife, Martha, who played the piano. To honor this long and varied tradition, we've compiled a list of Americans who have blended music and politics, organized by entertainment value (not necessarily talent level).
18. As the first woman to ever serve as U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno deserves our respect. However, her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" at a fundraiser in 2006 was terrible. Here's arguably history's least enthusiastic performance of the hit song:
17. Before his political career, a young John Kerry was a student at the prestigious St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, where he rocked out on the bass guitar with his prep school peers in their band, The Electras. In 1961, the band recorded an album in their school's basement and made 500 copies of it (one of the copies sold on eBay for $2,551 around the time of the 2004 election). Because of the magic of the Internet, you can hear the entire eponymous album on Pandora. Unfortunately there are no videos of the band performing, but here's the audio for their track "You Can't Sit Down":
16. Tennessee has a very rich musical history, so it's unsurprising that their former governor, Lamar Alexander, has some musical talent himself. The current U.S. Senator began taking piano lessons when he was a young child and went on to win multiple competitions. Here he is for NPR performing "Tennessee Waltz," which is one of the several official songs of the state, in 2008:
15. President Harry S. Truman was a pianist. As a child, Truman practiced two hours a day until he was fifteen years old. In fact, Truman once said that, if he had the talent, he would've become a pianist over a politician.
14. On top of being the first female National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice was the first female African-American Secretary of State. And on top of that, she's an excellent pianist. At age 15, she performed Mozart with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. In fact, until she concluded that she didn't have the talent to play professionally, her original college major at the University of Denver was piano. Ultimately she switched her major to political science, which I'd say, given her successful career, was probably for the best. She still plays quite often and in 2002 she performed with National Medal of the Arts-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Constitution Hall. Here she is in December of 2008 playing Brahms for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace:
13. In his 79 years of life, Orrin Hatch has learned to play the piano, violin and organ, managed bands, promoted concerts and written poems. On top of that, he's composed many songs, from spirituals to love songs to patriotic melodies like his "Heal Our Land," which was performed at George W. Bush's second inauguration, to "Souls Along the Way," which he wrote for Ted Kennedy and his wife (the song was also featured in the movie Ocean's Twelve). The Mormon even wrote "Eight Days of Hanukkah" (seen below), because, as he told The New York Times, "Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do."