December 4, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Pop stars who played for Ronald Reagan

2 min read
Several pop stars played at the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1980 including the Beach Boys and Donny Osmond plus Frank Sinatra
Ronald Reagan

It was the big event of early 1981 – the US$10m cost inauguration of President Ronald Reagan.  He’d beaten Democrat Jimmy Carter and would usher in over a decade of Republican control of the White House.  And the former B-movie actor wasn’t short of celebrity fans. Quite a few pop stars played at the gala event that followed.

At the Inaugural Gala, there was the Beach Boys singing “I wish they all could be Republicans….”   I wish I was making that up – but I’m not. Three years later the Reagan administration showed its gratitude to the Beach Boys by banning them from playing at a concert on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Apparently, according to Reagan’s interior secretary James Watt, pop stars attracted the wrong crowd and scared away families.

On an infinitely naffer note, Donny Osmond – thoroughly washed up on this side of the Atlantic by then – beamed with his big white teeth and gave a rendition of Johnny B. Goode with the lyrics “Go Ronnie Go”.

DISCOVER: Terror of nuclear war in the 1980s  

It actually makes me ill to think about it. Nearly as bad as Donny and Marie singing Reelin’ in the Years – check it out if you’ve never seen that Osmond gem.

Donny is probably the least objectionable of the Osmond brood. There’s always his brother Alan who believes gay people can be cured. Marie I believe is pro-LGBT. But that’s more than enough of the Osmonds!

The Reagan pop stars and celebrities event was organised by former Democrat supporter turned Republican Frank Sinatra. It’s hard to imagine that Donald Trump would ever get a cast list like that to sing for him.

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