Imagine... A Tribute to Heroes
Friday morning on the television show Good Morning America, Dennis Franz (aka "Detective Sipowicz" on the show NYPD Blue) was talking about how the rehearsals were going for the ambitious fundraising telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes, planned for worldwide broadcast last night. He said (paraphrased)...
We were all standing there, feeling very uncomfortable and unsure of where to start. Neil Young walked over to the piano and started playing John Lennon's song Imagine, and everyone became more focused and settled down to the tasks at hand.Interestingly, the song that Neil had played had recently quite arbitrarily been placed on a list of songs NOT to play on Clear Channel radio stations, due to some bogus idea that it didn't fit these times. Neil obviously begged to differ, and chose to do the song on the telethon. Here's a man with well over 400 released songs of his own (probably double that if you count unreleased ones), but he forgoed those and chose to Imagine. Wonderfully.
The telethon was handled masterfully, unceremoniously and without pomp -- no introductions and few speeches. The speakers spoke about the heroes, and only about the heroes. The performers chose songs that fit the situation. Bruce Springsteen opened and immediately set the mood with a charged My City Of Ruins. Several performers did spiritual songs of healing. Tom Petty did the only defiant song of the evening, I Won't Back Down.
When it was Neil's turn, he made us cry. And imagine. Cry for the heroes. Imagine how things COULD be. Cry for John Lennon, who loved New York City. Imagine a better world for us all.
Later in the show Eddie Vedder did a wonderful Long Road, accompanied by his "dad" (as he referred to Neil at Bridge 13) on the omnipresent pump organ. As the song ended, the camera caught Neil at the keyboard behind Ed, and with a startling focus-switch we saw Neil echo the last couple of lines of the song. Heavenly.
At the close, Willie Nelson gave us a preview of next week's Farm Aid finale, bringing everybody out to sing America The Beautiful. As he played his Spanish guitar lead and as everyone sang, Neil accompanied Willie on his own acoustic guitar, weaving and bobbing as usual. That's our Neil!
The show seemed to come off without a hitch and is sure to go down in history, if only for being the first time an entertainment show had commandeered virtually all of the networks. Hopefully it will raise a substantial amount for those most directly affected by the terrorist tragedy of last week. And most importantly it will surely help us all to heal. Thank you Neil, and a big thank you to all those who contributed.
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