The first hint that something extraordinary was afoot came when security guards at New York’s Madison Square Garden cleared the backstage area on one of the final nights of Elton John’s two-month U.S. tour. Then early in the show, Elton sang his recent hit tribute to John Lennon, Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny), as a reverent crowd of 20,000 lit candles and matches in Lennon’s memory. As the song’s final bars were still echoing, a slight woman with a boy in tow walked onstage, and the murmur of recognition greeting them turned to a steady roar as the audience realized it was Yoko Ono and 6-year-old Sean Lennon. Yoko and Sean hugged Elton before she tearfully told the audience, “I want to thank you. I really feel you are all my family.”
It was a poignant moment: John Lennon had made his last public appearance at a 1974 Elton John concert in the same arena. The two musicians had become friends that summer when Elton asked Lennon to sit in on a recording session of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. At the Thanksgiving concert, both singers sported white flowers sent to them by Yoko.
For Lennon and Yoko, the concert also marked a brief reunion during a separation. Lennon later recalled: “She was backstage afterward, and there was just that moment when we saw each other and like, it’s like in the movies, you know, when time stands still?” A year later John and Yoko asked Elton to be godfather to Sean.
After his sell-out tour, Elton headed for Australia; however, he will surface next week as a character in a Manhattan multimedia musical about his friend. The show, entitled Lennon, was produced with Yoko’s permission and blessing and includes visual and lighting effects, a live band playing Beatles songs, and nine performers portraying 63 characters. One scene depicts Elton asking Lennon to appear onstage with him should their recording of Lucy reach No. 1. (Which, of course, promptly happened.) The show is, said London’s Daily Mail, “a remarkable biography of the most unsentimental of the Beatles.”