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B-sides: Dave Grohl, Emmylou Harris, Herbie Hancock, the Jonas Brothers and others talk McCartney at the White House


Paul McCartney accepts the Gershwin Prize from President Obama. Beforehand, the artists honoring McCartney spoke about his influence. (AP photo)

By Chris Richards

Wednesday afternoon, hours before they were onstage singing in the East Room of the White House, a handful of pop greats were camped out on the front steps of 1600 Pennsylvania, chatting with reporters about Gershwin Prize winner Paul McCartney and his influence on their work.

Among them, Dave Grohl, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Faith Hill, Herbie Hancock, Corrine Bailey Rae, Lang Lang and the Jonas Brothers.

Below, Click Track gathers select excerpts from those interviews, with more after the jump.

Dave Grohl: Growing up in Virginia... my mother was a public school teacher and we didn't have a record player in the house. So she would bring the public school-issued record players home on the weekend and the first albums that we brought home -- we'd go out and buy records and bring them home on the weekend -- were the Beatles' greatest hits. The early years -- the blue one and the red one. It's how I fell in love with music. And around that time, I started learning to play guitar. My mother bought me the Beatles' complete anthology -- the book the size of a telephone book. I would sit around listen to the records and strum the songs all day long. So it's the foundation of my musical being.

[Grohl is friendly with McCartney. And he performed the White House with the Foo Fighters last summer. Was he nervous for Wednesday's gig?] You throw those two things together and it kinda doubles the ante, a little. To be honest, I didn't realize that I was going to be playing with the president sitting four feet in front of me. So this is a new challenge. But I decided my career goal, now, is just to see how much I can terrify myself over and over again. I'm raising the bar tonight!

Emmylou Harris: Just like everybody else, I saw them on "The Ed Sullivan Show"... It was just a life changing thing. Somehow, I guess with the Kennedy assassination it really felt like it took the air out of the world... Something about the Beatles brought joy back into the world. I don't know what it was. You know, it's hard to explain. But somehow, it was okay to be happy again.

Herbie Hancock: It's hard to imagine that one person could have such a broad scope... And of course, he's not asleep at the wheel. He's a guy that really pays attention to what's happening in the world and responds to it, and writes pieces that are really about hope... He's always thinking about new ways of doing things and expanding the palette.

Elvis Costello: We wrote twelve songs together... but I have to say that I don't honestly think that Paul is getting honored because of any of the ones we wrote together. I think he was pretty assured of the honor before that.

Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers:The best part about Paul McCartney is that he just feels music. He oozes music. You can see that. He was speaking last night about... songs coming to him in dreams and it's just magic. I know a lot of people say they have a formula for writing songs but it seems like.. it just oozes out of him. That's so inspiring.

Corinne Bailey Rae: He talks about music as being something that just happens magically... So you get that sort of humility where someone is saying, These songs kind of arrived to me and I don't really know how I've done them... [Fans go] to his concerts and find themselves in tears. It's not just nostalgia. 'Oh, I remember when I first heard X or Y.' I think it's something sort of chemical and mathematical.

Faith Hill: Last night at the dinner in Sir Paul's honor, we were all sitting back and pinching ourselves and going, Can you believe we're here? It's just such an incredible event to be a part of... He is just an incredible human being and he treats everyone with such great respect. And that just makes you love him even more... I'm just in awe of him.

Lang Lang: They are a spiritual inspiration. A great musician, no matter what they do -- classical, or jazz, or rock -- they inspire people... The Beatles, they gave me energy. I gained so much from their music.

By Chris Richards  |  June 3, 2010; 6:35 AM ET
Categories:  B-sides  | Tags: Corinne Bailey Rae, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Herbie Hancock, Jonas Brothers, Paul McCartney  
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Next: How did our McCartney predictions pan out?

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