Jennifer Holliday sang for the Reagans. She sang for the Bushes (father and son). And she sang for the Clintons.
So when the planners of this year’s presidential inauguration reached out to the Tony-winning singer this week to ask if she would sing during a welcome concert the day before Donald J. Trump is to be sworn in as president, she said yes.
“I’m singing on the mall for the people,” she said. “I don’t have a dog in this fight — I’m just a singer, and it’s a welcome concert for the people on the mall.”
Ms. Holliday, speaking during a telephone interview Friday afternoon, said she had not supported Mr. Trump’s candidacy — “I voted for Mrs. Clinton, and they knew that.” But, she said, “if someone wants me to sing a national anthem or something, we think about America, and we go.”
Ms. Holliday sounded certain about her choice, but her spokesman, William Carpenter, suggested in a subsequent email that the decision was not set in stone. “I just spoke to her and she still hadn’t made up her mind about doing the event,” he wrote.
Ms. Holliday is a Broadway icon, renowned for her performance as Effie in the original cast of “Dreamgirls,” and she returned to Broadway this year as a replacement Shug Avery in the revival of “The Color Purple.” The final performance of that show was Sunday, and the Clintons were in the audience.
Ms. Holliday said she was asked on Wednesday if she would sing at the concert scheduled for Jan. 19, and she agreed, seeing the request as similar to those she received to sing at the White House during past Republican and Democratic presidencies. “I just thought of the history part of it, and about singing on the mall where Marian Anderson paved the way for me to sing as a black American,” she said, referring to a 1939 concert that Ms. Anderson, a popular singer, performed from the Lincoln Memorial after being denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall because she was black.
Ms. Holliday said she had been startled and disheartened on Friday by the venom that greeted the news of her participation.
“It brought a lot of threats from people already saying I’ll never work again,” she said. “If that’s what America has come to, where we all hate and bully people, there’s no more freedom of speech.”
She added, “I know everybody hates me now, but that shows we are all just hateful people now — we don’t even want to work together.”
And, she said, “If it’s the end of everything for me, then it has to be the end of everything for me. I would hope that’s not how it ends up, but right now I would like to be a part of a welcoming part of America. If we’re only going to let Trump be the face of America, I say let’s not let him be the only face of America — someone else could stand and show a light of love or hope or forgiveness.”
She noted that the Carters and the Clintons, as well as the Obamas, are expected at the inauguration.
Source: The New York Times | MICHAEL PAULSON