Obama opened the evening's festivities by asking, "Let's face it, who does not love this music?"
"Memphis soul," as its known, is described as a mix of soul, gospel and blues. Obama said the unique blend of musical styles created in segregated Tennessee in the 1960s was special because it "played an important part in our history." He also noted the music sought to bridge racial divides and "create a little harmony with harmony."
The president, along with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, welcomed singers Ben Harper, Booker T. Jones, Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah and Cyndi Lauper, among others.
The event marked the 10th concert for the "In Performance at the White House" series.
Prior to the concert, the first lady and several performers conducted a workshop with students from various schools and organizations. She explained to the students that she played the piano when she was young and wished she had stuck with it. She also noted that studying music is beneficial for many reasons.
"The discipline, the patience, the diligence I learned through the study of music, those are all skills that I apply every single day in my life," she said. "I applied them as a student, as a lawyer, as a first lady, and definitely as a mother."
A recording of the concert will air on PBS stations on April 16.