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Two dozen musicians gather at benefit to honor Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch. All of the artists gather on stage to sing "Hey, Jude" at the end of the tribute to Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall.

By Jim Bloch

The Beatles played two sets at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 12, 1964. The sets were not recorded because their producer, George Martin, was not a member of the musicians union.

Fifty-nine years later, more than two dozen stellar musicians gathered on the hall’s famous Perelman Stage on March 15 to celebrate the music of Paul McCartney.

“It is an extreme honor to be in this place, with these musicians, surrounded by these songs without which the world would not be the same,” said Lyle Lovett, who sang “Yesterday” backed by the house band’s string section, the Fiery String Sistas, made up of three violins and a cello.

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Lovett also joined Peter Asher in performing Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love,” written by McCartney. Gordon Waller died in 2009.

“I was 19 when I met Gordon,” said Asher. EMI signed the duo, but demanded original songs. McCartney was dating Asher’s sister Jane. “Paul and I were sharing the top floor of our house in London. He lived there for two years.” McCartney had written most of “A World Without Love,” but John Lennon didn’t like the tune and didn’t want to spend any time on it.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Hall
Paul McCartney.

“I asked Paul if we could record it,” Asher said. “It became #1 all over the world and changed my life forever.”

Asher introduced his new partner. “Presenting Peter and Lyle,” said Asher. “I assure you, none of us should have to live in a world without love.”

Michigan connections

There were a number of Michigan connections.

Punk rock goddess Patti Smith, in a rumpled black suit and long gray hair, sang a slow, emotional version of “She’s Leaving Home.” As the drummer, guitarist and bassist kept playing, Smith shifted to a spoken poem in which she apologized to her mother for hurting her during her younger years while she searched for herself. Smith lived in a castle-like house in St. Clair Shores with husband and MC-5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, 1980-1994.

Young jazz vocalist Alexis Morrast, who performed McCartney’s “My Love,” sang with the great Detroit bebop pianist Barry Harris at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center; Harris died in December, 2021.

Soul singer Bettye LaVette, who sang McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” was born in Muskegon and raised in Detroit.

“I’m so happy to be here,” LaVette said. “This year, I’m celebrating my 77th birthday and the 61s year since my first recording.”

Vocalist Hamilton Leithauser, whose most recent album is “Live at Cafe Carlisle,” sang McCartney’s “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Hamilton is the son of Mark Leithauser and nephew of poet and novelist Brad Leithauser, who grew up in Pleasant Ridge, just north of Detroit.


Graham Nash, looking dapper in a black suit, white shirt and his white hair, stood alone at center stage, backed by the Fiery String Sistas.

“I’m going to sing one of Paul’s saddest songs,” said Nash as he slipped into “For No One.”

Bruce Hornsby turned in one of the night’s best performances, playing a complicated, syncopated piano line under McCartney’s “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” everything at a faster tempo than the original.

The Minneapolis brother-duo Cactus Blossoms, both playing acoustic guitars, did a beautiful version of “And I Love Her” backed only by the house band drummer Steve Jordan who sat down behind the duo and played bongos; Jordan was the show’s musical director.

Allison Russell, known for her Americana stylings and activism, turned in a jazzy version of McCartney’s beautiful civil rights song “Blackbird.”

Sami Rae, outfitted in an electric blue suit and white pumps, used her big voice and little ukulele to deliver a quirky, powerful rendition of “Heart of the Country” from the Ram album.

Shovels and Rope, a folk duo featuring Cary Ann Hearst who played drums with her left hand and a mini-keyboard with her right hand, with her husband Michael Trent on guitar, turned “Helter Skelter” into a punk rock tune.

All the musicians assembled on stage to perform “Hey, Jude,” including the 40 singers in “The Resistance Revival Chorus,” as Lovett and LaVette performed a little waltz.

The event raised money for a dozen organization that specialize in teaching music to children, including Grammy in the Schools, Young Audiences New York and Music Will, which sent a quintet of high school students to perform “Back in the USSR.”

McCartney could not attend the celebration and delivered a note apologizing for being out of the country.

“I am so honored,” McCartney said, sending his “love from the heart of my bottom.”

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at

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