Happy Birthday, Barack Obama: The Former President's 10 Best Musical Moments

To celebrate former President Barack Obama's 57th birthday, we're counting down his most memorable singing moments. Obama covered everyone from Aretha Franklin to Prince, and he always stayed in tune. We love him, we miss him, and we still have the audacity to hope.

Barack Obama

Netflix buys the rights to "Barry," the Barack Obama biopic that focuses on his college years.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama spent eight years as the most powerful man in the world. A majority Republican Congress spent the better part those years obstructing his agenda; although he wasn't able to sign much of his legislation into law, President Obama advocated for common sense gun control. He promoted environmental policies to combat climate change. He reaffirmed America's commitment to strike torture from the government playbook.

Despite swimming against the red tide, Obama accomplished several signature policy goals, including the Affordable Care Act, which gave millions of previously uninsured Americans on health coverage. He enacted stimulus packages to shake the U.S. economy out of its recession. He repealed "Don't ask, don't tell." He ended direct U.S, military involvement in Iraq. He approved and oversaw the Navy Seal mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

But Obama was more than a policy wonk. To millions and millions of Americans, Obama's character was his forte. He was always cool under pressure; his fans (and his critics) called him "No Drama Obama." Even when faced with ridiculous conspiracies and hypocritical criticisms, he was never anything less than presidential. Obama was a brilliant orator, who knew how to connect to people's larger aspirations. He had a soft spot for families and children. And he had a wicked jump shot from beyond the arc, which certainly didn't hurt matters.

To celebrate Obama's 57th birthday (he was only 47 year old when he assumed the Presidency), we're counting down Obama's best musical moments: his endearing habit of breaking out into song at a moment's notice is one of the things we miss most. A lot of his singing was legitimately melodic and soulful. But some of it was embarrassing, and peak Dad schtick, like the first entry on our list. Here are President Obama’s best musical moments.

10. "Happy Birthday"

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Artist: Patty & Mildred Hill

Date: July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July is America's birthday, but it's also the birthday of Obama's eldest daughter, Malia. To wrap up his Independence Day remarks, Obama sang "Happy Birthday" to a packed room. Don't worry; Malia was far from mortified. In fact, she got onstage herself, walked over to her Dad, and gave him a big hug.

9. "Jingle Bells"

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Artist: James Lord Pierpont

Date: Dec. 1, 2016

Obama presided over an audience-heavy rendition of “Jingle Bells” at his final White House tree lighting ceremony. Fortunately, he had a microphone, which meant the public got to hear his dulcet tones front and center. Obama would continue spreading holiday cheer later that month, singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with carolers in Hawaii.

8. "Chain of Fools"

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Artist: Aretha Franklin

Date: Sept. 1, 2008

Obama set himself up for failure when he decided to sing "Chain of Fools"—it's the Queen of Soul's signature, after all. But he gets extra points for pure brass; Franklin was in the audience when he sang this, and he was in Detroit, the birthplace of Motown.

7. "Slow Jamming The News"

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Artist: Jimmy Fallon, The Roots

Date: June 9, 2016

Okay, so it's not "singing," at least in the traditional sense. But it's certainly musical, and it was hilarious. In addition to reviewing his political performance over eight years, Obama also threw in a Rihanna reference and a sly Trump dig: "Orange is not the new black!" Mic drop.

6. "Walk On By"

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Artist: Dionne Warwick

Date: June 2, 2006

In 2006, Obama was the Democratic Party's rising star; he was still a junior Senator from Illinois, but already, he was joining other Democratic senators on their campaign trails. And when he stopped by East Orange High School in New Jersey to stump for Senator Robert Menendez, he made sure to shout out the school's most famous alumnus, Dionne Warwick. Warwick was in the audience, and she was delighted by Obama's impromptu cover.

5. "What'd I Say"

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Artist: Ray Charles

Date: Feb. 24, 2016

By 2016, it was well-known that Obama could carry a tune. And so, at the White House tribute event to Ray Charles—the last event of its type during the Obama administration—the President said pointedly, during his remarks, that he would not be singing. He relented near the end, however, and even threw out some call-and-response "Heeeey! Hoooo!"’s to satiate the crowd.

4. "Sweet Home Chicago"

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Artist: Robert Johnson

Date: Feb. 21, 2012

At a White House tribute event to the blues, Mick Jagger and B.B. King coaxed Obama into singing the first verse of "Sweet Home Chicago." With no warm-up and a little rasp in his voice, the President delivered a more-than-adequate cover of Robert Johnson's best-known hit. When King died three years later, Obama sang the blues legend's praises: "B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever. And there’s going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight.”

3. "Purple Rain"

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Artist: Prince

Date: Oct. 31, 2016

It's funny that one of Obama's best musical moments occurred at such an unexpected time. When the First Family celebrated Halloween at the White House in 2016, and Obama laid eyes on a little boy dressed as Prince, the President couldn't help himself.

"Purple rain! Puuurple Rain!"

Fortunately, the boy's aunt and uncle were there to capture the moment on social media. And considering that Prince had died earlier that year, Obama's mini-tribute was a reminder of how pervasive The Purple One was.

2. "Let's Stay Together"

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Artist: Al Green

Date: Jan. 19, 2012

This viral clip informed millions of people that Obama had pipes. The President was speaking at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater. And with Reverend Al Green in attendance, Obama launched into "Let's Stay Together" using a soft, sweet falsetto. The crowd went absolutely wild.

But even though this is the most well-known Obama musical moment, it’s only the second best one.

1. "Amazing Grace"

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Artist: John Newton

Date: June 26, 2015

The 2015 Charleston church shooting was a hate crime. The killer, a 21-year-old white supremacist, murdered nine black parishioners, including the senior pastor, Clementa Pinckney, during a prayer service. Obama gave a televised eulogy to Pinckney at the pastor's funeral service, and he ended his remarks by singing "Amazing Grace."

It was beautiful, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. Obama’s old spiritual singing style was an implicit acknowledgement of the role that race continues to play in Black American life. 

This is what we want in a President. We want a man who models and represents the best of us. And that's why we continue to love and miss Barry O.

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