Vintage McCartney lifts somber White House

Forty-six years after the Beatles invaded America, Paul McCartney rocked the White House Wednesday, honored by President Barack Obama at a star-studded concert celebrating his songwriting legend.

Though British Petroleum is target number one for the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, British pop, in the form of Sir Paul, was more than welcome, along with a host of stars who performed Lennon/McCartney classics.

McCartney's barnstorming show was part of a two-day series of events marking the award of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress.

The Liverpool-born rocker belted out Beatles classics including "Eleanor Rigby" "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude" as Obama and family clapped and swayed to the music. McCartney and Stevie Wonder also recreated their duet "Ebony and Ivory."

McCartney also serenaded First Lady Michelle Obama with the ballad "Michelle" which he said he had been "itching to do at the White House... I hope the president will forgive me."

He strummed the famous tune song using the same bass guitar he used when the Beatles exploded onto US culture in 1964 on the "Ed Sullivan Show" - which he bought way back for 30 British pounds.

"Getting this prize would just be good enough, but getting it from this president..." he told Obama.

Noting that America was going through a tough time with the oil spill, and after the worst recession in decades, he delivered a warm endorsement of the US leader, who is under fierce political pressure over the Gulf catastrophe.

"Even though, we all know you have got lots of difficult issues to deal with - I just want you to know you have billions of us who are rooting for you and we know you are going to come through," he said.

Obama praised McCartney as the greatest song writer of all time, and said the British star's "gifts have touched billions of lives."

He also marveled that almost half a century had gone by since "four lads from Liverpool first landed on our shores and changed everything overnight."

"The Beatles weren't the first rock stars... but they blew the walls down for everybody else, in a few short years, they changed the way we listen to music."

The president also noted the current difficult times, in an apparent bid to shield himself from accusations from political foes that he was partying while the people of the US Gulf coast cowered in fear from the advancing oil slick.

"Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in another part of the country that is so rich in musical heritage," Obama said, referring to New Orleans.

"The people of the Gulf coast... are dealing with something that we have not seen before, and it is heartbreaking. We reaffirm together our commitment that their lives and their communities are made whole again," he said.

"Part of what gets us through tough times is music."

Earlier, McCartney bounded on stage and kicked off the evening, in a decorated East Room with the song "Got to Get You into my Life," from the "Revolver" album, before Wonder appeared with a rampaging cover version of "We Can Work It Out."

"Sir Paul, you have written some of the most beautiful music ever heard by humans in this world," said comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who also featured in a show to be broadcast by US television network PBS in July.

Among stars covering Lennon/McCartney classics, Elvis Costello played "Penny Lane," teen favorites the Jonas Brothers chipped in with "Drive My Car" and Country star Faith Hill played "Long and Winding Road."

After the concert was over, McCartney also took a swipe at former president George W. Bush on an open mike, saying it was now "great to have a president who knows what a library is."

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