Keith Urban Sings Aretha Franklin, Dolores O'Riordan in Tribute Medley - Rolling Stone
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Keith Urban Sings Aretha Franklin, Dolores O’Riordan in New Year’s Tribute Medley

CMA’s Entertainer of the Year remembered artists we lost in 2018 during Nashville performance

For a third year in a row, Keith Urban headlined Nashville’s New Year’s Eve concert on Monday night, delivering a set of his hits and welcoming special guests like Chris Janson and Peter Frampton. As has become his tradition, he also offered a medley of songs by artists who died in 2018.

Urban, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, began the tribute with “Zombie,” the 1994 alt-rock hit by the Cranberries, whose singer Dolores O’Riordan died January 15th in a London hotel. From there, he segued into Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” revamping the song as a busker’s acoustic sing-along. Franklin died August 16th after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The guitarist also honored country picker and Hee Haw co-host Roy Clark, choosing the Appalachian traditional “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” and EDM star Avicii, re-creating the DJ’s country-influenced dance hit “Wake Me Up.”

Urban wrapped up the medley by calling Frampton back to the stage for a guitar duel on “Sweet Home Alabama.” Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King, a Nashville resident who died in August, co-wrote the Southern rock staple.

The Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight celebration has become Nashville’s centerpiece New Year’s party. This year, a crowd of nearly 200,000 was in attendance for sets by Urban, Brett Young, Judah & the Lion and the Fisk Jubilee Singers.


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