Rice, the Republican former aide to president George W Bush, performed with the Queen of Soul, a committed Democrat who sang at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, to raise money for underprivileged youth.
Rice is an accomplished pianist who considered becoming a professional musician before opting to specialise in studying the former Soviet Union. She was greeted with cheers and a few boos when she appeared to play a movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The first black woman to become Secretary of State, who justified the US-led war in Iraq with discredited claims that it harboured weapons of mass destruction, bowed and smiled briefly to the audience after her nine-minute performance.
The unlikely alliance of Rice and Franklin had its origins at a White House meeting between the two, after which Franklin suggested they join to raise money for a worthy cause, said Catherine Cahill, chief executive of Philadelphia’s Mann Music Centre for the Performing Arts, where the event was held.
Rice, now a political science professor at Stanford University, played a duet with Franklin on Say a Little Prayer for You, which Franklin introduced by saying: “You didn’t think she could play it, right?” But the show really belonged to Franklin, who ran through classics including Respect, Chain of Fools, and You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.