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“I sing in the shower, I sing outside of the shower," the former president says. "I am unembarrassed about singing"

By Sean Neumann
March 01, 2021 12:15 PM
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Barack Obama; Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama in 2008
| Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Barack Obama is "unembarrassed" about singing — and the former president proves it on the latest episode of his podcast with Bruce Springsteen.

Obama, 59, and Springsteen, 71, have an hour-long discussion about the power of music on the third episode of Renegades, including how it influenced the former's two terms in the White House.

But before talking, the duo — who first bonded during Obama's campaign — get down to singing.

Springsteen fiddles through a version of the Bobby "Blue" Bland classic "Further On Up the Road," while Obama sings along — even giving the 20-time Grammy winner some pointers.

"Wait, we gotta get in the right key," he tells Springsteen, who laughs and immediately switches the key to match Obama's voice.

"Further on up the road, you've been laughing, pretty baby, someday you're gonna be crying," Obama hums along, laughing when he quickly starts to forget the words.

"Further on up the road, you— I forget that last line," he jokes, giving a few "uhs" here and there, getting into Springsteen's playing. "Sounds alright, though!"

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Bruce Springsteen shares a moment with President Barack Obama
Bruce Springsteen (left) and Barack Obama in 2012
| Credit: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The duo debuted their eight-part Renegades series last week, in which the former president and famed rocker share "in deep and revealing conversation with each other, exploring a wide array of topics including race, fatherhood, marriage, and the state of America," according to Spotify.

In their third episode, focused on music's effect on their lives and careers, Obama tells Springsteen about the artists he listened to in his early teens.

"The first album I bought with my own money was Talking Book by Stevie Wonder," Obama tells Springsteen.

"I would sit with a banged up, little old turntable," he recalls, adding, "I would sing along to every Stevie Wonder song for hours."

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Obama talks about favorites like Billy Paul, Earth, Wind & Fire and Joni Mitchell before he begins serenading The Boss with a line from Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."

A love of music carries on to this day, the former president says, whether his family is a fan or not.

"I sing in the shower, I sing outside of the shower. I am unembarrassed about singing," Obama says, laughing. "My daughters and my wife sometimes roll their eyes. I have been known to have been scolded by my staff for doing some air guitar stuff on Air Force One."

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From left: JAY-Z, Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen

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Springsteen tells Obama about how he was also "a creature of Top 40" as a child, sharing how he learned the blues from his mother having the radio on in the mornings.

Later, he got into more "fatalistic" folk-country artists like Woody Guthrie in his late 20s and early 30s and that helped rejuvenate his career, he says.

As for Obama, the former president gives his podcasting partner a few examples of how music played a vital role during his eight years in the White House.

He says he and First Lady Michelle Obama made an effort to have music nights at the White House, from motown to country.

The live music series at the White House featured musicians playing from different genres, such as a country singer playing an R&B song, President Obama says, in order "to emphasize and underscore how all these traditions in fact do blend together."

Obama also shares an archived clip of himself singing Al Green's "I'm Still In Love With You" during a speech at Harlem's Apollo Theater in New York City, while sharing a deeply emotional tale about how he came to the decision to famously sing "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy after the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre of black parishioners.

"It was a moment where you just say, 'Will words be enough?' " Obama remembers, noting how "it seemed like every three months" there was another mass shooting during his presidency.

Thinking back to that poignant moment during his second term, Obama says he relied on music because it has an ability to capture a "unifying element in America."

"There's something that's there for all of us," Obama says. "Something that we share."