These rock legends and many more, who preceded them, are now eternal representatives of the best times of rock. We listen to the 10 Incredible Tribute Songs For Musicians That Passed Away:
‘Here Today’ — Paul McCartney about John Lennon
Although the Fab Four did not get back together, Lennon and Macca could rebuild their bond behind closed doors in the following years. That is why when the author of “Imagine” was assassinated on December 8, 1980, in front of his house in New York, Paul suffered immense pain that he later had to channel in some way at the compositional level. This is how “Here Today” was born, a track that is part of Tug of War, the album McCartney released in 1982.
‘The Needle and The Damage Done’ – Neil Young about Danny Whitten
Neil Young wrote “The Needle And The Damage Done” in 1970 in response to the physical decline of Danny Whitten (photo left), whose addiction to heroin made working with “Crazy Horse” increasingly difficult and ultimately completely impossible. At the end of 1972, Whitten was invited again by Neil Young to rehearse for the Harvest tour with the Stray Gators but was soon sent home. He died that evening of a mixture of alcohol and medication.
‘Never Without You’ – Ringo Starr about George Harrison
Ringo Starr paid tribute to his friend and former bandmate George Harrison with this single from his 2003 album Ringo Rama. The moving tribute references their lifelong friendship, the early days of the Beatles (‘we were news headlines’) and several of Harrison’s most famous compositions (” Here Comes the Sun ‘is about you’) in over the course of five minutes. A memory that is poignant not for its subtlety, which has never been Starr’s forte, but for the serious emotion that drives the melody and Ringo’s simple but powerful vocal performance.
‘American Pie’ – Don Mclean about Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper
What happened that fateful day was the outcome of a whole chain of errors, improvised decisions, and unfortunate coincidences. On February 3, 1959, three very young rock stars, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson, were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, along with pilot Roger Peterson. It had an unprecedented impact on rock and roll history. The tragedy became a legend and 12 years later, it was immortalized by Don McLean in his classic American Pie, as “The Day the Music Died.”
‘2000 Miles’ – The Pretenders about Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott
Today the song is considered a Christmas staple, but the classic song of the Pretenders is actually about Pete Farndon and Hames Honeyman-Scott, the two original members of the group who tragically lost their lives due to drug overdose.
‘Oh Thank You Great Spirit’ – Chicago about Jimi Hendrix
One of Chicago’s truly rock songs, the aggressive Terry Kath’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix: Oh, Thank You Great Spirit, is the best song on the band’s 1975 album, Chicago VIII.
‘Back in Black’ – AC/DC about Bon Scott
On February 19, 1980, AC / DC lead singer Bon Scott died. His death, caused by accidental “alcohol poisoning” according to the autopsy report, traumatized the other members of the group. Overwhelmed by the tragedy, the latter decide at first to separate, but later realize that the singer would have wanted them to continue the music. AC / DC, therefore, recruits a new singer, Brian Johnson, and undertakes a new album to pay tribute to the late musician. Back to “Back In Black”, the band’s requiem for Bon Scott.
‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’ – U2 about Michael Hutchence
The song was written by Bono thinking of his friend Michael Hutchence, leader of the band INXS, who years before took his own life. In the lyrics, Bono tries to convince his friend of the foolishness he is about to do.
‘Sleeps With Angels’ – Neil Young about Kurt Cobain
In his suicide letter, Kurt quoted the song “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” by Neil Young, so the musician decided to remember the tormented singer with the homonymous song from his album Sleep With Angels and with lines that they talk about someone who left very early.
‘Johnny Bye Bye’ – Bruce Springsteen about Elvis Presley
The Boss was a huge fan of The King. This 1980 song is a heartfelt tribute from Bruce, the fan, to his idol, who died in August 1977. When Springsteen was just 9 years old, he watched Elvis’ appearances on TV and announced that he wanted to be like him. Presley’s death is an unflattering contrast to the over-the-top rockstar lifestyle. Elvis died alone, in his bathroom, affected by substance abuse and being overweight. This made Bruce reflect on the fate of a music star when life stops being glamorous.