Michelle Obama Shares How She Convinced Prince To Perform At The White House

Michelle Obama speaks at The Royal Festival Hall, and Prince at the 2011 42nd NAACP Image Awards
Jack Taylor\Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Back in 2015, singer Prince put on a private performance at the White House for President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. According to Michelle, making that performance happen, however, was not the easiest task she ever had to accomplish.

As reported by Consequence of Sound, Michelle was speaking on Questlove’s Pandora podcast Supreme, when she explained the challenges that accompanied trying to book Prince for the performance. As the former first lady explained, Prince does not believe in birthdays given his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, making it impossible for her to convince him to appear at the White House for a birthday party.

“We went back and forth trying to get Prince, because most of our personal parties revolved around birthdays — and Prince didn’t celebrate birthdays. ‘He was like, I can’t come but I want to come.’ We had to figure out how to create something that wasn’t a birthday.”

When they did finally come up with something that Prince was comfortable attending, Michelle remembers just how incredible his performance was.

“For the first 15 minutes, he just let his band riff. They were just jamming before he even showed up,” she said, adding that the audience was kept on their heels the whole time.

There have also been other musical acts that have graced the White House during the Obama presidency, including Bruce Springsteen, who Michelle shared actually first tested the show that would later become his Broadway residency during his visit to the White House. According to Michelle, he had wanted to create something special for the staff, but that it went over so well he decided to use the set for his residency.

Michelle also explained why it was important to her to host so many musical performances at the White House during her husband’s eight-year tenure there.

“One of the things I wanted to make sure of is that we got all the greats to perform, because I didn’t know if anyone was ever going to ask them to perform at the White House [again].”

Now that she’s left the White House and politics, Michelle relies on her two daughters to keep her informed about the musical scene.

“I love to let them teach me about what they love… Sasha is my more musical child. She has her room set, candles lit, colored light bulbs, with certain sounds. It depends on what her mood is. She could be playing classical music — or jamming to SZA,” she explained, adding that she doesn’t know many artists, but rather focuses on particular songs that she likes.