Music

11 Iconic Inauguration Performances From History You Definitely Forgot About

From the first Black female national anthem singer to Destiny's Child... and yes, Jessica Simpson.

Mark Reinstein/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone remembers how Aretha Franklin made us cry at Barack Obama's first inaugural ceremony and Beyoncé's jaw-dropping national anthem rendition in 2013, but these are some of the iconic inauguration performances you definitely forgot about and need to watch ASAP.

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Marian Anderson - Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957

Two decades after performing at a Lincoln Memorial protest organized by Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson became the first Black woman to sing the national anthem at an inauguration.

FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra - John F. Kennedy, 1961

Sinatra organized an inaugural gala for the ages for his friend "Jack," with guests like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Gene Kelly. The only problem? Nobody saw it because a huge blizzard prevented NBC from broadcasting the event live.

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Aretha Franklin - Jimmy Carter, 1977

Obviously, Franklin's 2009 performance in front of Barack Obama is legendary, but that was actually her third time on the inaugural stage. Her first performance was for President Carter's gala in 1977, where she impressed with "God Bless America."

Mark Reinstein/Corbis News/Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac - Bill Clinton, 1993

Fleetwood Mac had to be persuaded to reunite at the request of Clinton, who used "Don't Stop" as his unofficial campaign anthem. When they finally came together, the event turned into a free-for-all, with other A-list stars joining the band onstage for no apparent reason.

Mark Reinstein/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

Destiny's Child - George W. Bush, 2001

Bush organized a concert to "celebrate America's youth," and who embodied that in 2001 more than Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle? The group played "Independent Women, Part 1" and "Jumpin' Jumpin'," encouraging the crowd to chant Bush's name. Imagine that in 2021.

David McNew/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jessica Simpson - George W. Bush, 2001

Not only did Jessica Simpson duet with Nick Lachey at Bush's inauguration, she also performed "I Think I'm In Love With You" — but replaced the word "boy" with "George," which isn't weird at all.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Hilary Duff - George W. Bush, 2005

For Bush's 2005 inaugural, Lizzie McGuire herself (plus JoJo and Ryan Cabrera) headlined. No footage of this sacred moment exists, other than Duff standing in the background as Bush speaks. Still, an inauguration performance from Duff is truly what dreams are made of.

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Beyoncé - Barack Obama, 2009

Everyone remembers Beyoncé's controversial pre-recorded National Anthem in 2013, but what goes under the radar is her stunning cover of Etta James' "At Last" in 2009.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Miley Cyrus - Barack Obama, 2009

Like Bush, Obama also held a concert for America's youth for his first term. In 2009, Cyrus opened the show with "The Climb," a song that only feels more poignant with every passing year, and later returned for the iconic "See You Again."

Brooks Kraft/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

Jonas Brothers - Barack Obama, 2009

The JoBros also delighted fans with an "SOS" performance during Obama's Kids Inaugural: We Are The Future Concert special.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Kelly Clarkson - Barack Obama, 2013

Clarkson was initially super nervous, even shaking while greeting then-Vice President Biden, but when performing her rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee," it was like her anxiety left her body, leaving only perfect vocals.

Share