REVIEW: New John Lennon Tribute CD out Tuesday Brings Out Memories, Emotions

Steve Marinucci, Beatles Examiner / November 15, 2011

"The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute," which is available by mp3 download starting Tuesday or on physical CD, is an energetic and joyful tribute to the music of the man the concert was dedicated to. 

The 2010 edition of the Lennon Tribute show, which is put on annually by Theatre Within, featured an all-star lineup, including Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Taj Mahal, Aimee Mann, Keb’ Mo’, Joan Osborne, Martin Sexton, Shelby Lynne, Meshell Ndegeocello, Alejandro Escovedo, The Kennedys, Vusi Mahlasela and Rich Pagano (from the Fab Faux). The album's tracks include both Lennon and Beatles songs.

The concert and the album have the backing of Yoko Ono, who said in a statement about the release of the album, "John would have loved that Theatre Within has produced a special live album of his songs to benefit the Japanese Red Cross and the people still suffering from the tsunami and earthquake." 

The interpretations of the songs range from joyful ("Power to the People"), powerful ("God"), stark and driven ("Working Class Hero"), emotional ("Watching the Wheels"), soulful ("In My Life") R&B ("The Word"), delicate ("Jealous Guy") and somber ("You've Got To Hide Your Love Away').  

A particular poignant moment is when Patti Smith dedicates "Oh Yoko" to Ono and cites her as an example of how Smith handled her life after the loss of her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith in 1994. "I look to Yoko as an example of how to carry oneself as a widow," she says, "to do one's work, to raise one's children and to find joy in life and to always have your loved one walk with you."


The full roster of artists and songs on the CD:

  • Rich Pagano (of the Fab Faux) / Power To The People
  • The Kennedys / And Your Bird Can Sing
  • Meshell Ndegeocello / God
  • Alejandro Escovedo / Help!
  • Shelby Lynne / Mother
  • Martin Sexton / Working Class Hero
  • Joan Osborne / Hey Bulldog
  • Taj Mahal and Vusi Mahlasela / Watching the Wheels
  • Keb' Mo' / In My Life
  • Taj Mahal with Deva Mahal & Steph Browne / Come Together
  • Bettye LaVette / The Word
  • Aimee Mann / Jealous Guy
  • Jackson Browne / You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
  • Patti Smith and Tony Shanahan / Oh Yoko
  • Playing For Change Band / Instant Karma


This year's John Lennon tribute, the 31st annual, will take place on Dec. 10, 2011, at Le Poisson Rouge. This year’s lineup includes Steve Forbert, Bettye LaVette, Lucy Kaplansky, Rich Pagano, Richard Barone and tribute first timers Toshi Reagon and Ari Hest.

Meanwhile, the album is a worthy salute to a man whose music, no matter how it's interpreted, will always have a powerful message.