A host of performers paid a live, televised tribute on Tuesday to John Lennon, portraying the slain musician as an artist whose words have taken on renewed meaning since the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Gathering together to play songs such as “Imagine,” “Give Peace A Chance” and “Come Together” were Dave Matthews, Marc Anthony, Natalie Merchant and more than a dozen others on the two-hour show on TNT.
“This evening is now dedicated to New York City and its magnificent people,” said host Kevin Spacey of the tribute that had been in the works for more than a year. “John Lennon’s spirit is with us tonight, and so are the spirits of 5,798 others.
“While I’m honored to be here,” he said, “I’m incredibly pissed off that this passionate prophet of peace and so many others aren’t with us tonight because we live in an increasingly violent world.”
With those words, the actor broke into a rousing version of Lennon’s song “Mind Games” that brought the audience to its feet.
Among the other highlights were Lennon’s son Sean singing his father’s vocal part from the Beatles song “This Boy,” with Rufus Wainwright and Robert Schwartzman; Marc Anthony singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds;” Natalie Merchant singing “Nowhere Man;” and the Stone Temple Pilots singing “Revolution.”
Cyndi Lauper sang “Strawberry Fields” from Central Park, where a garden is named “Strawberry Fields” in Lennon’s memory.
The show ended with the ensemble singing “Give Peace A Chance,” segueing into “Power to the People.” As the televised show ended, the song continued as the artists paraded up and down the aisles of historic Radio City Music Hall.
Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono thanked the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers for their sacrifices during the attacks on the twin towers, saying “You have restored my faith in the human race.”
“As John said, ‘There are no problems, only solutions,”‘ she said. “Let’s create peace, create unity, create joy and create light. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”
The show was originally intended as a benefit for gun control but was transformed into a benefit for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, said Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich.
“When this happened, we knew what we had to do,” he said.
The show was originally set to be taped on Sept. 20 and shown on Oct. 9, which would have been Lennon’s 61st birthday, but it was moved in the wake of the attacks.
Lennon, who became an outspoken and often unpopular anti-war advocate, lived in New York City the last several years of his life. He was fatally shot outside his Manhattan apartment on Dec. 8, 1980.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney has announced that he will be part of a benefit concert for World Trade Center victims on Oct. 20.