Some of rock and pop music’s greatest artists came together for a CBS special on Sunday night that celebrated The Beatles‘ historic first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles: The Night that Changed America — A Grammy Salute aired on the same network, and on the same date and at the same time, as the Fab Four’s landmark Ed Sullivan Show debut 50 years ago.
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Imagine Dragons, the Eurythmics, the Eagles‘ Joe Walsh, and Electric Light Orchestra member/George Harrison collaborator Jeff Lynne were among the artists who covered classic Beatles tunes during the two-and-a-half-hour special. Grohl joined Lynne on “Hey Bulldog” and Walsh and Gary Clark Jr. on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”; Walsh, Lynne and George Harrison‘s son Dhani covered “Something”; Imagine Dragons delivered an acoustic rendition of “Revolution”; and Eurythmics performed “The Fool on the Hill.”
A few of the performances were spliced with footage of The Beatles. For example, a clip of The Beatles playing “All My Loving” transitioned into Maroon 5‘s rendition of the song.
Only a handful of the performers shared their personal memories of The Beatles. One of them, Dave Grohl, discussed how the band was a favorite of his mother, himself and his young daughter.
The show was capped by performances by Ringo Starr, who sang three tunes, including “Yellow Submarine,” and Paul McCartney, whose set was a bit longer.
Paul confessed that he was initially hesitant to take part in the event. He said, “I was wondering if it was the right thing to do, if it was seemly to tribute yourself. But I saw a couple of American guys who said to me, you don’t understand the impact of that Ed Sullivan Show on America.”
Paul performed a string of Beatles hits, including “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Ringo returned to provide vocals for “With a Little Help from My Friends” before he sat at the drum kit for a sing-along version of “Hey Jude” that saw Paul on the piano and all of the guest artists on stage.
Interestingly, only two of the five songs from The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 were heard on the show.
The special also featured an interview with Paul and Ringo conducted by David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, the site of The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show appearance, where Letterman now tapes his Late Show. There were also short biographies on each Beatle, including John Lennon and George Harrison.
The Beatles: The Night that Changed America — A Grammy Salute was hosted by LL Cool J. Johnny Depp, Kate Beckinsale, Anna Kendrick, Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks and Eric Idle were among the many A-list actors in attendance.
Also watching from the seats: John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono; their son, Sean Lennon; and George Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison.
Here are the performances that aired on the special, in chronological order:
“All My Loving”
“Ticket to Ride”
“We Can Work It Out”
Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison
“In My Life”
Keith Urban and John Mayer
“Don’t Let Me Down”
Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne
“The Fool on the Hill”
Alicia Keys and John Legend
“Let It Be”
Pharrell Williams, Brad Paisley and Cirque du Soleil
“Here Comes the Sun”
Gary Clark Jr., Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
“With a Little Help from My Friends” (Ringo on vocals)
“Hey Jude” (Ringo on drums)
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