The Late Great Johnny Ace, and other songs

I have always loved the backstory regarding Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night.

john-lennon-colorI’ve written often enough about John Lennon, especially on his birthday (October 9), and on this date, that I was musing on what to write on this 35th anniversary of his death. You’ll see I’ve mentioned SOMETHING about John EVERY December 8 since this blog started in 2005, except in 2007, although it was more oblique in some years than others.

In any case, I found this link to Top 5 songs written in tribute to John Lennon. Four of them I had actually put on a compilation disc together some years ago, along with:

songs written by one or more Beatles but performed by others, e.g., It’s For You by Three Dog Night; Goodbye by Mary Hopkin; Fame by David Bowie
songs about the Beatles: Beatles, Please Come Back by Gigi Parker And The Lonelies; I Dig Rock And Roll Music by Peter, Paul & Mary
*even songs by AND about the Beatles or their members: Glass Onion from Anthology 3; Early 1970 – Ringo Starr; When We Was Fab- George Harrison.

The one tribute song from the above list I was unfamiliar with was Queen’s Life is Real (Song for Lennon).

The others:
Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) by Elton John
I have always loved the backstory regarding Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night; its success meant John had to play at Elton’s MSG concert in 1974, which eventually meant a reconciliation between John and Yoko.
Here’s a 1999 live version of Empty Garden.

Here Today by Paul McCartney
When I first heard it, I thought it was a bit treacly; I’ve quite changed my mind. Certainly, by the time I watched the live 2009 NYC version, I was in a totally different head.
I wish that John and Paul had shown up at the Saturday Night Live studio back in 1975.

All Those Years Ago by George Harrison
George modified the lyrics of a song he had written for Ringo because the drummer thought the song was too high in his range. It made a lot of people happy that the song featured vocal contributions from Paul and Linda McCartney, as well as Ringo’s original drum part because it was a big hit.

The Late Great Johnny Ace by Paul Simon
This song segues from a tale about a singer in the 1950s to Beatlemania to a final verse about how he first heard the news that John had been killed. From Paul Simon’s worst-selling album up to that point. The Phillip Glass ending instrumental for strings, clarinet, and flute is painful mournful.
Here’s the original acoustic demo

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “The Late Great Johnny Ace, and other songs”

  1. I seem to recall that Paul Simon performed “The Late Great Johnny Ace” at the Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park, but it was interrupted by a fan who tried to get on the stage.

  2. I’ve been dredging my memory for any obscure Lennon or Beatles facts that may have passed you by, but I doubt that I have anything to add to your already encyclopaedic knowledge!

  3. From something I wrote exactly 15 years ago:

    “Even if you believe, as cultural historian David Frum argues, that the Seventies are far more relevant to our time than the Sixties, you’re still going to have to find a place in your worldview for John Lennon; many of us who’ve learned that delicate balance between righteousness and cynicism learned it right off the grooves of Plastic Ono Band.”

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