by Julian Spivey
December 8 would’ve been the 75th birthday for one of popular music’s greatest legends and icons, John Lennon. In celebration of this milestone birthday and in tribute to a great man a bunch of music’s brightest stars got together for a tribute show in New York City that was broadcast on Saturday, Dec. 19 on AMC.
The celebration of Lennon’s music included compositions Lennon wrote both as a member of The Beatles, music’s all-time greatest band according to most music critics, and as a solo artist. Performers during the two-and-a-half-hour special included John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler, Kris Kristofferson, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Chris Stapleton, Tom Morello, Aloe Blacc, Pat Monaghan of Train, Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Juanes, The Roots and Peter Frampton.
The special, hosted by actor Kevin Bacon, provided a night filled with incredible performances. Among the very best were Steven Tyler kicking off the show with “Come Together,” a song his band Aerosmith memorably covered in the ‘70s. Aloe Blacc provided soulful vocals on “Watching the Wheels,” one of my personal favorites from Lennon’s solo career. Sheryl Crow provided a rocking version of “A Hard Day’s Night” and joined Chris Stapleton and Blacc for a spirited version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Rock legend John Fogerty gave two of my favorite performances of the night with “In My Life,” possibly Lennon’s best composition with The Beatles, and “Give Peace a Chance.” Eric Church gave a soulful rendition of “Mind Games” and later joined Steven Tyler for a fantastically rocking performance of “Revolution.”
The best pairing of the night was no doubt songwriting legend Kris Kristofferson being joined by Tom Morello for a stunning take on “Working Class Hero,” something I know was meaningful for both artists who, like Lennon, have never shied away from activism in their lyrics.
One of the most emotional performances of the evening came from The Roots on “Mother,” with an original rap verse from Roots MC Tariq Trotter or Black Thought who lost both of his parents at a young age and identifies with the emotional impact of the song.
Another impactful performance came from legendary Willie Nelson who was tasked with performing Lennon’s most notable composition “Imagine” toward the end of the special and received a big hug from Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono upon completion of the song.
The wonderful celebration of Lennon’s iconic songbook ended with a terrific all-star jam, as these such concerts almost always seem to do, with all of the evening’s stars returning to the stage to perform Lennon’s ultimate message song “All You Need Is Love.”
Lennon always stood for what he believed in as the night’s many wonderful performances shined a light on, but among the most important was peace and love. There was a lot of that on this spectacular night.