South Africa’s Lira will be one among many performers at Barack Obama’s inaugural celebrations Monday, but she is determined to be remembered for a performance to rival another star who serenaded another president.
The multiplatinum artist hopes to give Obama and other guests at the Ambassadors’ Inaugural Ball in Washington something as memorable, but perhaps not as racy, as Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr President” 1962 enticement to JFK.
“We all remember how she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the president,” said the 33-year-old, whose real name is Lerato Molapo.
“I am going to concentrate on seeing how I can make it special, not only for me,” she said.
Lira has chosen to play Obama a song that she has previously performed for a president: “Something Inside So Strong” by Labi Siffre.
“I played that song for President Mandela in 2010; it was his favorite song when he was still incarcerated.”
The song features lyrics laced with meaning for Lira, a free South African who grew up in an apartheid township who is performing for the United States’ first black president.
It opens: “The higher you build your barriers / the taller I become / The farther you take my rights away / The faster I will run.”
According to Lira, “it was a song about the struggle of the native Africans during apartheid. I saw it as a great present for the president and I am singing it for Obama in the same spirit.”
Read more: Capital FM