- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2001

Lyle Lovett is no Lenny Kravitz. The Texas-born crooner is older, he's mellower and — idiosyncratic though he may be — he's a country boy at heart.

Welcome to George W. Bush's Washington.

Next Saturday, Inauguration Day will commence four years of a new sound from the White House and those musical moments that mark time during a presidential term.

Irish rhythm-and-blues singer Van Morrison, Latin singer-dancer Ricky Martin and "America's band," the Beach Boys, join Mr. Lovett on the growing list of performers who will make music next weekend to celebrate the inauguration of Mr. Bush as the nation's 43rd president.

The soundtrack of the Clinton years included official appearances by retro-rocker Mr. Kravitz, soul great Aretha Franklin, folk-rock patriarch Bob Dylan and pop-rockers Fleetwood Mac. Mr. Clinton was dubbed the "First Rock 'n' Roll President," a status again confirmed by a recent party thrown for him at Washington's 9:30 Club, that hipster venue of national renown.

But don't expect the same vibe from Mr. Bush. The tastes of the former Texas governor run to the more traditional and there is growing evidence he leans to the country side.

Also performing during inaugural festivities will be country singers Lorrie Morgan, Linda Davis, Tracy Byrd, Gary Chapman, Billy Ray Cyrus, Larry Gatlin and the duo Brooks and Dunn.

Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Michele Stember yesterday also confirmed the following acts: the hit-making soul trio Destiny's Child, teen operatic sensation Charlotte Church, pop band Nine Days, Blue's Traveler frontman John Popper, vocalist Marilyn McCoo and gospel singer Christopher Ballard.

Brian Montgomery, chief deputy and director of special events for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, says he is optimistic the festivities will offer something for all musical appetites.

"We will try to have everything from all corners of the country," Mr. Montgomery says. "As much as we all enjoy country-and-western music, we know there are people out there with a variety of tastes."

Mr. Lovett, a talented and critically acclaimed eccentric, will play Friday's pre-inaugural Texas Black Tie and Boots Ball, a massive, sold-out event that also features short sets from country stars Clint Black and wife Lisa Hartman-Black, Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Mark Chesnutt and Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel.

Mr. Morrison, a veteran songwriter-singer whose musical excursions since clicking with "Brown Eyed Girl" in 1967 have included Christian and spiritual themes, is something of an unexpected heavyweight on the bill for the inauguration kickoff Thursday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Martin, one of the teen heartthrobs of the moment, is sure to pull a younger crowd with his suggestive shakes and thrusts. On a higher level, family friendly Christian singer Sandi Patty reportedly will open the show by performing the national anthem.

Entertainers have not been partisan when it came to offering their services for the president-elect, Mr. Montgomery says.

"We had a lot of requests and interest come in unsolicited," says Mr. Montgomery, who declined to divulge specifics. "Some of them surprised me."

Craig Campbell, a publicist for country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, says the Bush people asked him about bringing Mr. Cyrus into town to perform. His song, "We the People," climbed the country chart after the Bush campaign used it to fire up supporters along the trail.

"We want to do it," Mr. Campbell says, though Mr. Cyrus supported Vice President Al Gore for president — as did country stars Patty Loveless, Kim Richey and Pam Tillis.

But among Bush backers in the country-music world are Travis Tritt and Hank Williams Jr., both of whom appeared onstage at Bush rallies in Mr. Gore's home state of Tennessee. If they don't perform at inaugural festivities, they likely will turn up at future presidential events.

Most artists will shed their politics for an inauguration slot or other chance to entertain a president, Mr. Campbell says.

"It's a good shot," says Mr. Campbell, still negotiating a spot for Mr. Cyrus. "The exposure is worth it to anybody, regardless of politics."

Mr. Clinton's eight years in office made rock music, albeit a sometimes-dated variety, an official staple. His nickname was "Elvis" on the 1992 campaign trail, during which he played "Heartbreak Hotel" on his saxophone for an appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show."

Mr. Clinton even did a sit-down interview with the VH1 cable music channel, the MTV for those 35 and older. On the show, "Bill Clinton: Rock 'n' Roll President," he confessed to getting a nostalgic pang whenever he hears the Mamas and the Papas' "Monday Monday" or the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."

Mr. Bush reaches back even further for lifeline tunes. During his appearance in the fall on "Oprah Winfrey," he told his hostess that his favorite song was "Wake Up Little Susie" — though he identified the artist as Buddy Holly.

You could almost hear the Texas governor's aides whispering behind the cameras.

"The Everly Brothers," Mr. Bush corrected himself quickly.


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