US President-elect Donald Trump answers questions from the media after a day of meetings on December 28, 2016 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. / AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT
President-elect Donald Trump, who has struggled to recruit prominent artists for his inauguration, on Friday tapped country stars known for their patriotic anthems.
Trump’s inaugural committee announced that country stars Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood as well as Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday would perform at the Lincoln Memorial.
The event, during which Trump will speak, will be free to the public and take place on Thursday on the eve of the real estate tycoon’s inauguration as the 45th president.
Keith, one of the most prominent country singers of the 1990s, after the September 11, 2001 attacks released the song, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” a passionate call to arms in Afghanistan.
Keith later entered a high-profile feud with Dixie Chicks over the group’s criticism of the Iraq war, but the singer has also spoken admiringly of President Barack Obama.
Greenwood, 74, is a veteran country singer best known for his 1984 song “God Bless the USA,” which has risen back in popularity at times of war.
“I’m honored to be part of history again and sing for President-elect Donald Trump. This is a time to overcome challenges in our country and band together,” Greenwood, who performed at inaugurations of the last three Republican presidents, said in a statement.
Country music historically is most popular with white Americans, especially in the South, a stronghold of support for Trump who campaigned on a hard line against Mexican immigrants, Muslims and other minorities.
The inauguration will have a rare African American performer in Holliday, who won a Tony Award in 1982 for the original Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” later turned into a movie with Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson.
Holliday said she that been barraged with negative responses, including online threats, since the announcement.
“I was like, nobody knows that I’m alive and then I decide to sing a song and I wake up and they all hate me,” the 56-year-old told music magazine Billboard.
Holliday said she voted for Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton but believed it was important to provide “fair representation” at a presidential inauguration, rather than have exclusively white performers.
Holliday, a recording artist in the 1980s who has a loyal following in the gay community, said she had been motivated by Obama’s calls for a smooth transition.
The inauguration lineup pales in comparison to the star power amassed by Obama.
A similar inauguration-eve concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 2009 drew Beyonce, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Stevie Wonder, as well as country superstar Garth Brooks.
Trump, despite a career spent in entertainment circles, struggled to find celebrity backers in his campaign against Clinton.
Some of Clinton’s supporters, including Katy Perry, plan to come to Washington the day after the inauguration for a women-led protest march for civil rights.