With performances by Eric Church, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and Nashville newcomer Steven Tyler, this past weekend’s “Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert” found some of country music’s heaviest hitters paying tribute to the late Beatle, who would’ve turned 75 this past October.
The Roots, Tom Morello and Spoon also filled the evening’s lineup, proof that 35 years after his death, Lennon’s music still stretches across genres. It took the trio of Stapleton, Nelson and Kristofferson, though, to remind everyone that Lennon’s songs also reach across generations. Performing “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” with help from harmonica player Mickey Raphael, the three kept things short and simple, with Stapleton singing lead vocals and the two country legends — both of them old enough to be Lennon’s big brothers — chiming in with harmonies during every chorus.
In the video above, emcee Kevin Bacon introduces the three singers. Nelson receives the loudest applause, but Stapleton — who, at 37, is still three years younger than Lennon’s second son, Sean — shines the brightest, his voice ringing strong and clear from the stage of New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Had the “Imagine” show taken place two months earlier, the power structure within the group might have been different, with Stapleton yielding the spotlight to one of the two Country Music Hall of Famers. A stand-out performance at last month’s CMA Awards likely spurred the producers to put Stapleton front and center, drawing more well-deserved attention to a dark horse whose voice and songwriting chops are on par with those of his influences. Lennon himself would’ve been proud.