HomeCelebrityLove Songs of Elton John: You Don't Want to Miss This PBS...

Love Songs of Elton John: You Don’t Want to Miss This PBS Special


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On Monday, April 8th, PBS stations nationwide will air a special tribute to the timeless songwriting duo of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, titled “Elton John & Bernie Taupin: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.” This two-hour primetime special, taped at a concert event held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. on March 20th, celebrates the pair’s induction into the prestigious Gershwin Prize, honoring their unparalleled contributions to the Great American Songbook.

As reported by Billboard, the success of this show is a testament to the sheer quality and range of the songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin over their five-decade collaboration. Executive producer Ken Ehrlich has crafted a thoughtful and insightful program, incorporating illuminating talk segments with the two songwriters, as well as past Gershwin Prize recipients like Paul McCartney, Carole King, and Stevie Wonder. 

In one particularly poignant moment, Elton John expressed his deep gratitude for the indelible impact of American music on his own artistry. “Thank you, America, for the music you’ve given us all over the world. It’s an incredible legacy that you have – all the wonderful blues, the jazz, classical, all the songs the Gershwin brothers wrote. It’s just incredible. … I’m so proud to be British and to be here in America to receive this award, because all my heroes were American.”

Elton also drew a parallel between his own songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin and the revered composers of the Great American Songbook. “We write songs that we hope will last. And our songs have lasted – and so have the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, all those wonderful people. The Cole Porters of the world. They wrote classic songs, and once you write a classic that people love, it never goes away.”

The concert featured performances from a star-studded lineup, with Elton’s longtime band providing the musical accompaniment. Highlights included Maren Morris’ soulful take on the ballad “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” and Charlie Puth’s rendition of the poignant “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Annie Lennox opened the show with a powerful, gospel-inflected performance of “Border Song,” a nod to the song’s enduring legacy after Aretha Franklin’s iconic version.

Brandi Carlile shone with stripped-down, emotionally resonant renditions of two early album cuts, “Madman Across the Water” and “Skyline Pigeon.” And country superstar Garth Brooks, himself a previous Gershwin Prize recipient, delivered stirring performances of the hits “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” and “Daniel.”

Through these diverse interpretations, the show underscores the timeless appeal and artistry of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s songwriting. As Elton himself noted, their work has joined the ranks of the Great American Songbook, with melodies and lyrics that have the power to transcend genre and generation.

The special’s producer, Ken Ehrlich, is a veteran of the Grammy Awards telecast, and his touch is evident in the seamless flow and thoughtful pacing of the program. The talk segments provide invaluable context, allowing viewers to gain deeper insights into the creative partnership between Elton and Bernie, as well as their profound impact on the music landscape.

One particularly moving moment came when Elton paid heartfelt tribute to his longtime lyricist. “He gives me the lyrics and then I write the song. Without the lyrics, I’d be working in any record store in the world.” This acknowledgment of Bernie’s central role in shaping Elton’s enduring legacy underscores the duo’s symbiotic artistic relationship.

The show also features a touching tribute to the late, great Tony Bennett, the 2017 Gershwin Prize recipient who passed away last year. This nod to Bennett’s own towering influence on American popular music serves as a poignant reminder of the lineage to which Elton John and Bernie Taupin now belong.

Viewers who may have missed Billboard’s 2022 ranking of the 75 Best Elton John Songs are encouraged to read it before or after the PBS special, but not during – the performances are simply too captivating to tear oneself away. The ranking, which coincided with Elton’s 75th birthday, provides a helpful frame of reference for appreciating the breadth and depth of the duo’s songwriting prowess.

While Elton John himself may not have topped the list of most memorable performances (after all, how can one outshine the master on his own material?), the show’s true standouts emerged from the talented ensemble cast. Puth, Morris, Lennox, Carlile, and Brooks all delivered career-defining moments, reminding us of the timeless power of Elton and Bernie’s craft.

“Elton John & Bernie Taupin: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is a must-see event for any fan of American popular music. It’s a celebration of two icons who have left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape, and a testament to the enduring magic of the love songs of Elton John. Don’t miss it when it airs on PBS stations nationwide on Monday, April 8th.


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