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Rock Royalty and the White House

June 10, 2016


Rock stars have been visiting the White House as early as Sinatra and Roosevelt, and yes Sinatra was a total rock star. Sinatra campaigned for FDR in 1944 and was able to wrangle A White House invitation when the Democratic Committee chairman asked his pal, restaurateur Toots Shor, to a reception who was friends with Sinatra. FDR was more than happy to host Sinatra, as it would be a big F.U. to Bing Crosby’s endorsement of his opponent, Republican Thomas E. Dewey, governor of New York, Roosevelt’s old job before he went to the White House.


Since then, rockers have been visiting the White House to either gain a trinket for their private collections, or to be "used" to help push A political cause to the masses. Even in some cases, the artists causes get pushed forward by White House support. When rock royalty and the leaders of the Free World meet, it can be magic.



When Elvis told his personal assistant Jerry Schilling he wanted to meet then President Nixon, they hopped on Elvis private jet, the Lisa Marie and headed to Washington DC. Elvis was a collector of honorary police badges, gifts given to him from law enforcement agencies. Schilling would discover later, the reason for the trip was for Elvis to get a badge from the DEA. On the morning of December 21, 1970, Elvis wrote a letter to President Nixon, and pledged his help to fight anti-establishment organizations from the inside. “The hippies, and the Black Panthers, do not consider me as their enemy,” he wrote to Nixon. “I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large,” he insisted. The note included his hotel and room number. The letter arrived to aide Egil “Bud” Krogh, a fan of Elvis', and by noon, Elvis had an appointment in the Oval Office. According to Krogh’s Elvis restated his support for Nixon and indicated The Beatles as a “force for anti-Americanism.” Nixon never called on Elvis’ services, but did arrange for him to get a narc badge. 



Before Bono's March 2002 appointment in the Oval office, an aide told the president, “Do you know who Bono is?" Bush recalled in a documentary.

Bush said, “Sure, he’s married to Cher.”

Though Sonny, Cher's ex-husband who was politically active, having been elected to Congress, Sonny Bono had been dead for four years at the time meeting Bono.

When George W. Bush came into office, Bono had been fighting for the elimination of third-world debt. He had meetings with officials from the Bush administration, including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He also recruited evangelical leaders, like Rev. Billy Graham, who were allied with Bush. 80-year-old conservative Senator Jesse Helms was the one who convinced Bush to meet with Bono. The U2 frontman won Bush over with his Irish charm. Bush had been pushing for a $5 billion aid package, with the singer’s active support. 


Toward the end of Bush’s presidency, members of the band U2 decided on whether to pose for photos with Bush if it meant increased publicity for their charitable work in Africa. The Edge told the music magazine NME in 2009, “Hanging out with George W. Bush—which [Bono] knew was uncool, and really unpopular in many circles, knew that it would get results. And he was right. The amount of extra American investment in African development that occurred during the Bush administration was huge.


Bono and Bush would meet on several occasions on various issues on poverty to aids, and both men still remain friendly to this day.


Kris Embrey is the author of "Tell Me You Want Me" a fiction book based on the life of  a background singer touring with the hottest band in rock and roll. Archway Publishing a Simon and Schuster Company.


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