Joe Raiola, organizer of the annual John Lennon Tribute, put together an intimate preview of the event at the lovely City Winery, where those who knew Lennon shared their memories with those who wish they had. Raiola interviewed famed Lennon photographer Bob Gruen, Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas and legendary NY radio DJ Dennis Elsas. The three men told emotion-filled stories, often welling up or laughing as though the events happened only yesterday. The audience leaned in as they spoke and sat rapt and quiet for nearly two hours.
Bettye LaVette was the lone musical guest, performing intimate and achingly raw acoustic interpretations of three Lennon-penned songs, including a brooding take on “Wait” from Rubber Soul. LaVette reminisced about how the Beatles and Lennon influenced her musically and personally; her performances were the perfect climax of the night.
Lennon’s music will be featured onstage on Dec. 6, near the anniversary of his death, at Symphony Space, not far from his home. The lineup for the 33rd John Lennon Tribute is amazing and includes many Elmore favorites like LaVette, Raul Malo of the Mavericks, Joan Osborne, Dana Fuchs and Rich Pagano of the Fab Faux (which will perform a special George Harrison show at the Beacon Theatre on Oct. 26). Teddy Thompson, Toshi Reagon and Marc Cohn are also scheduled to perform, and the list isn’t even complete yet. This looks like it’ll be an excellent season for Lennon fans, Beatles fans and music fans in general.