WASHINGTON (AP) — “God bless you, let’s hear some music,” said Elton John.

On Friday night, the South Lawn of the White House was transformed into a music festival of love as John played a farewell concert honoring everyday “heroes” such as teachers, nurses and AIDS activists. But as it turned out, the event was also in honor of the 75-year-old British songwriter – President Joe Biden surprised him with the National Humanitarian Medal for being a “tidal wave” that helped people stand up for justice.

John seemed almost overwhelmed by the praise, telling the 2,000-strong audience: “I don’t know what to say. … I don’t know how to take compliments, but it’s wonderful to be here among so many people who have helped my AIDS foundation and my heroes, those who work on the front lines every day.”

He said he had performed in some beautiful venues before, but the stage in front of the White House, under a massive marquee under the open sky on a perfect fall night, was “probably the icing on the cake.”

He opened the show with “Your Song”, his first big international hit.

The intimate guest list included LGBTQ teachers, nurses, frontliners and advocates, as well as former first lady Laura Bush, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, education activist Malala Yousafzai and Jeanne White-Ginder, AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, who died of complications , related to AIDS in 1990.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden talked about the activism of the British singer, the power of his music and all-round kindness. The event was conceived and paid for by A+E and the History Channel.

“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote, ‘Once in a lifetime a welcome wave of justice can rise, and hope and history rhyme,'” Biden said. “Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John was that tidal wave, the tidal wave that helped people rise up and make hope and history rhyme.”

The night, in fact, was called “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a reference to a Biden poem quoted by Ireland’s Heaney.

Sir Elton – he was knighted in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II — has sold more than 300 million records worldwide, played more than 4,000 concerts in 80 countries and recorded one of the best-selling singles of all time, his 1997 remix of “Candle In The Wind” for Princess Diana, which sold 33 millions of copies.

John scored hits on Friday with emotional tidbits of his story, including a shout-out to Laura Bush and former President George W. Bush for his administration’s AIDS emergency plan and the story of how a dying Ryan White and his mother spurred him to advocate in the first turn, and helped him sober up.

“I wouldn’t talk here tonight,” he said. “They saved my life.”

He then dedicated the song “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” to Ryan.

Despite the large number of lawmakers in attendance, political speeches were kept to a minimum, except for John saying, “I just want America to be more bipartisan on everything.”

It was his first White House concert since he performed with Stevie Wonder at a 1998 state dinner for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. John is on a farewell tour that began in July after performing for more than 50 years.

The show came about after A+E Networks and the History Channel asked the White House and John if they would be willing to collaborate to honor the “makers of everyday history” as well as John himself.

It is not yet known whether the show will air. In the past, John worked with A+E on its global HIV/AIDS charity, the Elton John Foundation, which has raised more than $525 million to fight the virus worldwide.

John stuck around to play a sold-out concert Saturday at Nationals Park.

The president and first lady are big fans. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir about singing “Crocodile Rock” to his two boys as he drove them to school and then again to his son Bo before he died of cancer at age 46.

“I started singing Bo softly so that only the two of us could hear him,” Biden wrote. “He didn’t open his eyes, but I saw through his tears that he was smiling.”

John played the song on Friday, saying someone told him Biden had been singing it to his little boy. “I can’t imagine him singing that,” John quipped before motioning for the president to take the stage. He didn’t do that. But the whole crowd sang “La-La-Las” from their seats.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John. He tried to get John to speak at his inauguration in 2017, but John refused, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate for a Briton to speak at the inauguration of an American president.

The White House insisted Friday’s show was not an attempt to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and has often included John’s music — including “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” — in his pre-rally playlists over the years. Trump has called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” for his record of missile tests.

John played both on Friday, to thunderous applause.

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