Clint Holmes never failed to get a laugh when his Harrah’s Las Vegas show segued into the block of songs that reflect upon his own biracial upbringing: “My father was a black American jazz singer. My mother is a white British opera singer. That makes me… Puerto Rican.”
But at some point during primary season, Holmes changed the punch line: “That makes me… Barack Obama.”
Holmes told that joke to Obama himself in September, after singing his original song “Who Will Stand?” to the 11,000 people gathered for an Obama speech at Cashman Field. He says Obama didn’t just smile. “He laughed hard.”
Last Saturday, Holmes sang the National Anthem before Obama’s final Las Vegas appearance at Coronado High School. “After he spoke, he went around the perimeter line shaking hands, and when he saw me he said, ‘Thanks again, Clint.’ He remembered me by first name without having been re-introduced to me that day.”
Holmes is in New York with his wife Kelly Clinton and Las Vegas arranger/conductor Vincent Falcone to sing Friday with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. He is one of the guest artists on a program called “New York Songs: A Love Letter to the City.”
But Holmes has been trying to get to the Big Apple with his autobiographical musical, “JAM (Just Another Man).” One of the obstacles along the way has been that while Holmes’ story is compelling, potential backers have to be sold on whether he is famous enough to be telling his story onstage.
Could that change now? After all, Obama’s memoir — “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” — has been a best seller ever since the campaign heated up. The details are different, but the theme is strikingly similar to Holmes’ musical: A biracial youth’s search for identity in that nexus between black and white America.
“You would hope the timeliness of it … It does make some sense,” Holmes says.
Photo of Obama, Kelly Clinton and Holmes courtesy of Clinton.