There’s an easy way to give pop music’s most performance-hardened stars a case of the butterflies: Ask them to play in front of The Beatles.
Many of today’s top artists gathered earlier this month to honor The Beatles’ legacy, with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in attendance and late members John Lennon and George Harrison always in mind, at The Recording Academy’s taping of “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles.”
John Legend and Alicia Keys sang “Let It Be.” Katy Perry performed “Yesterday,” while her boyfriend, John Mayer, teamed with Keith Urban on “Don’t Let Me Down.” And Brad Paisley and Pharrell Williams took on the challenge of “Here Comes the Sun,” a song well known to millions of music fans.
“We are honoring the most important band of all time, and trying to do justice to their song while two of them sit there,” Paisley said in an interview before his performance. “We know, going in, we’re not going to sing like them, and we’re going to try to do our own thing with it. But ... there’s reasons why people get blasted when they cover Beatles songs in any situation. But here we are, we’re all doing that tonight. So, I guess it’s an even playing field in that sense.”
It was McCartney and Starr taking the stage, turning what had been a fairly sedate affair into an arm-in-arm singalong of hits “Hey, Jude,” ‘‘Sgt. Pepper” and “Yellow Submarine,” that prompted movie stars and Grammy Award-winning musicians alike to sing along like giddy kids.
The telecast will air tonight on CBS, 50 years after The Fab Four made their first appearance in front of an American TV audience on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It was a historic moment with more than 73 million Americans tuning in, changing pop culture in profound ways.