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Stars Come Out to Celebrate Elton John and Bernie Taupin as They Receive Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Print-ready version

Library of Congress concert premieres on April 8 on PBS, with CPB support

CPB.org
April 3, 2024

John, in pink suit, with Bernie Taupin hugging Annie Lennox, among the star-studded performers at the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song concert. Photo by Mauricio Castro.

At a tribute concert in Washington, D.C., musical artists from Metallica to Annie Lennox to former Gershwin honorees Garth Brooks and Joni Mitchell honored the songwriting duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who received the 2024 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The celebratory concert premieres, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, on Monday, April 8 on PBS, PBS.org and other streaming platforms.

Hosted by Billy Porter, the two-hour program covers the range of the duo's best-known works, with Jacob Lusk of Gabriels raising the roof with "Bennie and the Jets" and Brooks singing ballads "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" and "Daniel." Charlie Puth sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and Maren Morris offers her version of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." By special request of Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, John sings the duo's first hit, "Your Song," with lyricist Taupin standing beside the piano, as the concert finale.

John and Taupin, who were paired in 1967 after answering an ad placed by Liberty Records in London, have forged a songwriting partnership that has lasted more than 55 years. Taupin writes the lyrics and gives them to John, who composes and creates the song on his piano. Both cited American inspiration as they received the Gershwin Award from Hayden, who was flanked by Members of Congress.

"When I grew up as a little boy in suburban London, the only good music that I heard was American," John said. "Thank you, America, for the music you've given us all over the world. ... I'm so proud to be British and to be here in America to receive this award because all my heroes were American."

"Pretty much everything that I've written emanates from this country, whether it's the heartland, whether it's the urban jungle. It's all been a palette for everything I've written," said Taupin, who has lived in the United States since 1970. "I have an American heart, an American soul."

Another highlight of the evening was the recognition of John's work with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised more than $600 million in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and John's friendship with Ryan White, the young man who died in 1990 after contracting HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion. White's sister, Andrea White, read from a touching letter than John wrote in remembrance of Ryan White, followed by Brandi Carlile singing the early John/Taupin track "Skyline Pigeon."

Named for the songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is the nation's highest award for influence, impact, and achievement in popular music.

The honoree is selected by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with a board of scholars, producers, performers, songwriters, and other music specialists. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, the late songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, the late Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Garth Brooks, Lionel Richie, and Joni Mitchell.

"Elton John and Bernie Taupin: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song" is a co-production of the Library of Congress, WETA Washington, D.C. and Ken Ehrlich Productions, Inc. Major funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Added to Library on April 4, 2024. (496)

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