What may be most moving about the footage of Beth Hart performing at the Kennedy Honors concert in December is watching the members of her audience realize what a powerful moment they’re witnessing. Hart nonchalantly walks out onto the stage to join guitarist Jeff Beck to sing “I’d Rather Go Blind,” a song made famous by the late Etta James. The segment is to honor blues great Buddy Guy, who is transfixed from the first note Hart sings. Later in the song, the camera pans to the Obamas, who are deep in reverent head-nodding that transcends any possible polite pretending for the camera. And when she finishes, the members of Led Zeppelin are among the first to their feet for a standing ovation.
“I remember I sat myself down and I was like, ‘Don’t miss enjoying this amazing experience that’s coming your way by being nervous. Just focus and do your gig,’” recalls Hart, who had been releasing records for more than 15 years before she took the stage that night.
Hart says she didn’t actually watch the performance until she was home for the holidays with her family.
“To have my mother watch that and see that — she’s just like the center of my life — it was really something else, definitely the highlight of my life,” says Hart.
Enjoying a bit of a renaissance with her latest album, “Bang Bang Boom Boom,” and receiving accolades is bittersweet for Hart, as she tours the U.S. for the first time in a decade. Her career almost went off the rails after years of drug abuse.
“This is my first time being clean for the United States, and I’m just having a ball,” she says, joyfully, before adding one of the few memories she held onto from her darker days. “I was playing at a venue where Patti Smith was playing and I’m just the most hugest Patti Smith fan and we walk in and as we cross the floor I go, ‘Oh my God, I remember coming out here in my bathing suit and taking a shower with a hose!’ And it kind of freaked me out for a minute. It kind of bummed me out. And then I thought, ‘Hey, you know what? You’ve grown a lot. You’re human. It’s cool. Forgive. Move on.’