In 1980, Elton John took to the gaping stage of a huge outdoor show in Central Park, New York. There he would perform a rousing set and an extra special cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ just weeks before his death.
The size of the crowd at the show on September 13th is one that has been hotly contested but judging from the video below, it’s fair to say whether it’s the reported 300,000 to 400,000 or not, it’s a huge crowd and an even bigger atmosphere. It would be the stage for one of Elton John’s greatest performances.
In many ways, Elton John was going back to basics with this mammoth show. With the seventies behind him, John saw this show as a chance to reunite with members of the original Elton John band. He brought on bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson to offer ample backing for a stunning set.
Elton performed some of his biggest hits, providing jaw-dropping performances of his biggest hits, ‘Bennie and the Jets’, ‘Your Song’, as well as ‘Tiny Dancer’. But with such a big audience eagerly awaiting the next song, John chose to also sprinkle in some new tunes from the year’s album 21 at 33, ‘Little Jeannie’ and ‘Sartorial Eloquence’.
Ever the performer, Elton John also paid homage to his past with deep cuts ‘Harmony’ and ‘Have Mercy on the Criminal’ and a final very special performance of a cover. A very special cover of an artist with whom he’d shared a long history and strong friendship, an artist who may have been listening in his Dakota apartment, John Lennon.
Elton John told the crowd, “We’re going to do a song written by a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for a long time.” He continued “It’s a very beautiful song. You all know it. He only lives just over the road. He hasn’t done a record in ages, but he’s doing one at the moment.” The album was Double Fantasy and it would be the last Lennon record the world would ever get.
With exemplary style and authenticity, John performs the track with an added gravitas that one only gets with the benefit of hindsight. A beautiful cover of one of the world’s most touching songs, it would become a mainstay of John’s set in the tour until Lennon’s murder on 8th December 1980, thereafter it became too painful for him to perform.
Watch below as Elton John covers John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ just weeks before his murder for a huge audience in Central Park.
Source: Rolling Stone