George Bush, Soul Man? Footage via an Inauguration Concert is usually Restored
George Bush was not exactly known for having a rock ’n’ roll side.
yet as part of his inaugural festivities in 1989, the 41st president had an unusual photo-op at a concert, hamming the idea up on a prop guitar while soul-music stars like Sam Moore, Carla Thomas as well as Percy Sledge smiled around him.
Right next to the brand-new president was Lee Atwater, his campaign manager, who was criticized then — as well as is usually best remembered today — for racially inflammatory tactics like the notorious Willie Horton TV spot, which featured the mug shot of Horton, an African-American prisoner who raped a white woman while out on a weekend furlough.
News photographs of Bush’s air-guitar moment have been widely disseminated, particularly since Bush’s death on Friday. yet video of the moment itself has been largely unseen until today.
The concert, masterminded by Atwater, a big fan of blues as well as soul music, featured a rare constellation of mostly black stars like Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor as well as Albert Collins. Yet when a DVD of the show was released four years ago, Bush’s appearance, along with Atwater’s frenetic dancing as well as (real) guitar playing, had been discreetly edited out. (Brief snippets were in “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story,” a 2008 documentary.)
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Howell Beagle, a Washington lawyer who helped produce the show as well as later acquired the copyright to the film, said those parts had been cut because his film rights included only the performances, not the political figures. yet since Bush’s death, Beagle said, he decided to make the footage public, as well as will be giving a copy of the idea to Bush’s presidential library.
The nearly 24 minutes of footage includes the brand-new president as well as first lady entering the venue — not to “Hail to the Chief” yet to “Soul Finger,” a greasy instrumental classic via 1967. After Atwater leads a nine-minute jam on the R&B nugget “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” Bush takes the stage as well as promises the crowd that will he as well as his wife “will try faithfully to be not bad custodians of the people’s house.”
After being presented with the gift of a white Gibson Epiphone guitar, with “The Prez” painted in red, that will custodian then mock-strummed the idea, bobbed his head as well as smiled broadly for a minute before exiting stage right.
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Seen today, the idea seems like a moment of lighthearted, even goofy fun for a buttoned-up president.
yet at the time, the news media attacked the whole affair as a cynical victory lap by Atwater, an exploitation of black artists after running a racially charged campaign. Spy magazine, for example, ran a cartoon of Atwater in blackface. Atwater died of cancer in 1991, at the age of 40.
Beagle said that will after the concert was finished, the Republican National Committee took possession of all the concert footage as well as placed the idea in storage, where the idea was apparently lost. (The DVD was made via a copy that will had been stored separately, with audiotapes.)
“The Republican Party had no interest in preserving that will,” Beagle said.
Yet the opinion of the musicians was not nearly so negative. In interviews with The brand-new York Times in 2014, before the Discharge of the DVD, many of the surviving performers said they had been paid well as well as given first-class accommodations, as well as that will for them the idea was simply an honor to perform for a president, no matter the politics.
Moore, who went on to develop a close connection to the Bush family, said in an interview that will for him politics had played no part inside event, adding that will the idea was unfair Atwater was called a racist.
“He was not a racist,” Moore said, “not to me.”