Bill Clinton on Spectacle

A conversation with a former president of the United States may seem out of the ordinary for a music interview and performance program, but then we like to think Spectacle is out of the ordinary to begin with.

We’d talked about including Bill Clinton in the series almost from the beginning. Although the idea for Spectacle was to focus on great and interesting musicians, we wanted to mix it up a little with some exceptional personalities who had a connection to or involvement with music that would make sense to explore within the context of the series. The 42nd President met the test.

Even those with very limited knowledge of the man will probably know he was a saxophone player, and that he (shrewdly) showed up on the Arsenio Hall show to jam with the house band while campaigning for the White House in 1992. What many people may not know is that Mr. Clinton was a serious musician as a youth, one who actually contemplated a career in jazz and, as a result, knows his, um, stuff.

I won’t steal any thunder from Elvis’s chat with him, but suffice it to say the President speaks eloquently and passionately about some of his musical heroes and the major impact music has had on his life, his work and, from 1993 to 2001, his presidency. This is a very different Bill Clinton than the one we’re usually presented by the media, and as one of the most famous and influential people of our time, I think it’s significant to really explore some of the man’s uncharted territory in a way. The political, the controversial and the salacious have certainly been explored (and exploited) ad nauseum; but the musical? Not so much.

Elvis engages Mr. Clinton in a thoughtful conversation – and frames it with music that alludes to the President’s southern roots and an early musical idol (not to mention the nickname some of his staff gave him years ago). As an added bonus, Elvis gets help from the other Elvis’s one-time guitar player, James Burton, and another great guitarist, Pat Metheny, and equally great bassist, Charlie Haden, show up to play an exquisite piece of music to close the show.

Thanks for watching.

– Stephen Warden

Stephen Warden is the Creator and Executive Producer of SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…