When I saw Jennifer Hudson singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” last night for President Barack Obama and the First Lady’s dance at the Inaugural balls, I was hoping it wouldn’t prompt the kind of backlash that Beyoncé received in 2009 after singing Etta James’ “At Last” at Obama’s first victory celebration.
But it looks as though Hudson is not in trouble with the soulful Reverend from Arkansas. Green released a statement to The Associated Press, explaining that he was invited to sing the song but had a prior commitment.
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“Green said he’d be honored to sing for the president in the future,” The Associated Press reported, referring to the statement.
Though Hudson’s rendition was nice -- she kept the song’s 1970s R&B essence and did not try to outdo Green -- some Green fans said they would have preferred to see the Grammy award-winning artist sing the song.
Al Green (photo: Getty Images)“I love Jennifer Hudson but I wish the great Reverend Al Green could have been at the inaugural ball singing ‘Let’s Stay Together’ for President Obama and the First Lady’s first dance,” Cathy Combs Walton wrote in a comment posted on an Al Green Facebook group page.
Obama received praises when he sang a line from the song at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater last January. He surprised the attendees, singing, “I’m so in love with you” before laughing and telling the audience that his staff didn’t think he would actually sing.
“Don’t worry Rev., I can not sing like you,” Obama said at the event. “I just wanted to show my appreciation.”
In an interview with TMZ, Green described Obama’s impromptu cover as “terrific” and added that “he nailed it.” Green said he was grateful for Obama’s acknowledgment. “I was thrilled that the President even mentioned my name and if the President can get the economy going again and get everything going that he wants to, then we’ll all be together.”
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The 2013 Inaugural Ball first dance song backstory has a much happier ending than in 2009. A week after Beyoncé sang James’ signature song, the jazz legend expressed her disapproval at a concert at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.
Before performing “At Last” at her event, James said, “You know that woman he had singing for him, singing my song, she’s going to get her a— whipped.”
James later told the New York Daily News that her comments about Beyoncé, who played James in the film Cadillac Records, were made in fun. “I didn’t really mean anything,” she told the publication. “Even as a little child, I’ve always had that comedian kind of attitude. … That’s probably what went into it.”
James did admit, though, that she was disappointed that she had not been extended the opportunity to sing the song at the historical gathering. The singer, who died last year, said she was “feeling left out of something that was basically mine, that I had done every time you look around.”