Barack Obama inauguration: Excitement as pop's finest get ready to serenade president
18 JANUARY 2013
Four years ago Barack Obama's inauguration as America's first African-American president took place in a heady atmosphere that combined history in the making with all the fervour of a pop concert. Some 1.8 million crowded into Washington to see their rock star president installed, before he and first lady Michelle danced the night away like giddy newlyweds at a total of 10 balls.
This time in keeping with the economic times, the celebrations will be more muted. But this being Hollywood's favourite politician, there will still be a measure of glitz, with Beyonce, Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson, Usher, John Legend and Alicia Keys all on the official White House playlist.
The 44th commander-in-chief will take the oath of office on January 20 – the date mandated by the US Constitution. Because this is a Sunday it will be a private ceremony – followed by a public swearing the next day at 11.30am on the steps of the Capitol.
Between 600,000 and 800,000 are expected for Monday's event, which bears the theme 'Faith in America’s Future'. Chief Justice John Roberts has been named to administer the oath to the president, using two bibles – one owned by Martin Luther King Jr and the other by Abraham Lincoln. Justice Sonia Sotomayor will do the honours for Vice-President Joe Biden.
On this occasion, Jay-Z's bootylicious wife – who serenaded the first couple with Etta James' At Last on inauguration night in 2009 – has been drafted in to sing the National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. Kelly Clarkson will perform My Country Tis of Thee and James Taylor will give his rendition of America the Beautiful.
The Hawaii-born statesman has asked Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco to compose the Inaugural Poem – he is the first immigrant, gay, Latino person to be selected for the prestigious role.
Next, in a tradition dating back to 1789, comes a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, featuring marching bands from members of the Armed Forces and eight floats representing the first and second families. These include the Hawaii and Illinois State Floats in reference to where the Obamas are from, the Pennsylvania State Float for the birthplace of the VP and a wagon for Delaware State, where he and his wife Dr Jill Biden made their home.
Two more will pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr – January 21 is traditionally the day Americans honour the hero's legacy – and the Civil Rights Movement.
Another remembers the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. A final carriage is dedicated to the American people.
Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder and the cast of Glee are also expected to contribute to the celebrations, which include a children's concert for military families on Saturday.
But the high point will surely be two balls – the commander-in-chief's gala for servicemen and the Inaugural Ball.