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Gershwin Prize event at White House: A really big night for Sir Paul McCartney

Stars turn out to celebrate the third recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. And the guest of honor also took the stage.

Earlier in the day, performers emerged from the White House for interviews on the front steps, with traces of Wonder's rehearsal seeping out the front door.

Grohl arrived first and flashed back to countless childhood weekends spent listening to the Beatles' greatest-hits albums (the blue one and the red one). "It's how I fell in love with music," said the lead Foo Fighter and Nirvana alum. "It's the foundation of my musical being."

Others cited intense and early bonds with McCartney's work. "We used to sing his music in school like hymns," said Rae, a 31-year-old who grew up in England. Harris reminisced with a soft smile about seeing the Beatles on "Ed Sullivan." Hancock said his first exposure came later, when he saw Beatles album jackets strewn across the floor of Miles Davis's apartment.

McCartney, who will celebrate his 68th birthday in a few weeks, was accepting a relatively young award. Named in honor of songwriting giants George and Ira Gershwin, the prize was established in 2007 to honor la-la-la's the same way the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor honors ha-ha-ha's. Paul Simon won a Gershwin in 2007 and Wonder was honored in 2009. McCartney is the third recipient.

WETA filmed Wednesday's program, but it won't air on PBS until July 28. The 60-minute performance will also be intercut with archival footage, puffing it up to 90 minutes.

They shouldn't cut a note from McCartney's closing suite. "I hope the president will forgive me if I sing this song," he quipped after Obama presented him with the Gershwin, and began crooning "Michelle." During the I-love-you-I-love-you-I-lovvvve-you, the president leaned over to sing into the first lady's ear.

When it was over, McCartney joked under his breath, "I'm gonna be the first guy to get punched out by a president."

Then, "Eleanor Rigby," "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude" -- followed by what felt like endless applause.

A sweet moment, but McCartney topped it off with a bite. After thanking the Library of Congress one last time, he let it rip: "After the last eight years, it's good to have a president that knows what a library is."

More McCartney

A review of Paul McCartney's performance at the White House.

Paul McCartney photos in Washington.

The long and winding road of Paul McCartney's career that led to his award.

Video of McCartney receiving his Gerswin award and acceptance speech.

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