NEW YORK (AP) – Like many events, an annual John Lennon tribute concert taking place on its 9th birthday in his adopted city of New York has been forced to go online on its 9th birthday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There was no question of it being canceled, not on what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday, not on the 40th year of the tribute.
“The idea of not celebrating John, of quitting after 39 years, never crossed my mind,” said Joe Raiola, the tribute’s producer and artistic director of the Theater Within organization.
Raiola had booked the City Hall venue for this year’s show. With the pandemic forcing it to stream for free from 7pm to midnight Eastern Time on the LennonTribute.org website, the event could be more widely known than ever.
Recorded performances from Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Natalie Merchant, Rosanne Cash, Jorma Kaukonen, Shelby Lynne, Taj Mahal, Marc Cohn, Joan Osborne and others will be included – many from previous shows, but some new.
Without ticket sales, organizers will charge for programs that benefit people with cancer. Theater Within and Gilda’s Club offer free workshops such as songwriting, art and meditation to cancer patients and survivors, and to children who have lost their parents to the disease.
Raiola and other friends began their casual tribute to Lennon in 1981, less than a year after the former Beatle was shot.
It stayed small, at least until 24 years later, when Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono read a story about the tribute in the New York Daily News and called Raiola to say, what are you actually doing?
As she learned more about it, she offered support, saying in a statement released Thursday that “this is such a great way to honor John and the values he stood for.”
Cash, a fellow New Yorker honored with the 2018 John Lennon Real Love Award, performed the former Beatle’s songs “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Look at Me” to a tribute from the past.
“It’s one of those things you don’t often see when the same people show up every year,” Cash said in an interview. ‘They are committed to it. It’s not just because of John, it’s out of respect for what they do and the community they have created. “
Raiola believes that Lennon’s impact was “seismic” and that the ideals he believed in did not die with him.
“Peace, love, gender equality and social justice – that stuff never gets old,” he said.