WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- It was business as usual at the White House on Tuesday, with President Obama's dog Bo darting out to the lawn, another press conference about the budget in the briefing room and another impassioned group of protesters outside the gates. But for a few lucky students, it was a chance to learn about the history and importance of Memphis soul in American music - and to be in the same room as Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake, wearing a Members Only-style black jacket and dark brown jeans, confessed that his admiration for Al Green, who was supposed to share the bill at tonight's In Performance at the White House show but was forced to cancel because of a back injury, goes as far back as childhood. He also shared the back story of how Green helped him save the 2009 Grammy Awards show after Chris Brown and Rihanna canceled their performance.
"I grew up singing in church, and when I was about 10, I found out that Rev. Green just lived down the street from me (in Memphis)," Timberlake said. "I would go (to a corner market) just to see the reverend come by."
Fast-forward to the Grammys. "I came into my dressing room after sound check and saw that everyone who was there was looking at me like I owed them money. They asked if I could play another song. And this is probably 2½ hours before we start the Grammys. We pulled a list of people out that would be presenting and I look, and it was serendipity at its finest. Who do I see? The Rev. Al Green.
"I saw Keith Urban walking down the hallway, I grabbed him and asked him to do 12-16 bars for a solo. I saw Boyz II Men on the list, and I said, 'Get them on the phone.' So now we've gotten everybody lined up, but no one has spoken to Al Green. At this point, it's an hour and a half before we go live, we go on stage to start rehearsing the song, with hopes that someone would get a hold of him. Right before the doors opened, you see this mink coat coming down from the rafters almost like an angel. He comes running onto the stage, and he said, "It's so good to see you, I'm sorry I'm late. When they called me, I was in the tub."
"So not only am I taken aback from his entrance but now I have this visual of a holy bath filled with bubbles and the Rev. Al Green gets a phone call and he runs into his closet - this is how my sketch-comedy mind works - and comes out like Clark Kent like Superman, but in a mink coat.
"What we sang that night (Let's Stay Together) was very freestyle."