ABC RadioStars from a variety of genres — from Steven Tyler, John Fogerty and Peter Frampton to Willie Nelson, The Roots and Sheryl Crow — gathered in New York City Saturday night to tape the upcoming AMC special Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert. While the late Beatles legend would have been 75 in October, the show’s creator says there was another, more necessary reason for staging the concert at this point in history.

“With all the craziness going on in the world today, we thought, more relevant than ever is John’s message, his voice, his music,” executive producer Keith Wortman told reporters on the red carpet. “And so we felt, birthday or no birthday, it was an important thing for us to do.”

On the carpet, stars spoke about their admiration for Lennon, not just because of his music, but because of his activism. Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said, “I didn’t really grow up a Beatles fan, I discovered him later, and it was seeing a video of him on the [Dick] Cavett show when he took over for that week and had Black Panthers on, and radicals and revolutionaries. And I thought, ‘Wait a second — I sorta thought the Beatles were a boy band, and then here’s this guy who’s using the cultural platform he has to try and change the world.’ And that was very inspirational.”

“He wrote his music about peace, love and resistance in troubled times,” Morello added. “We live in very troubled times now, his songs serve these times but it’d be great to have him with us now.”

Sheryl Crow described Lennon as a “brave and loving soul,” adding, “I wish he was here.” Making reference to Lennon’s classic “Imagine,” which seems to ring true today more than ever, she commented, “You think it’s really simple, and yet it’s a really sophisticated song with a very sophisticated message. And we saw it being used in Paris recently and it’s just a song that will not go away.”

Questlove, drummer for acclaimed rappers The Roots — Jimmy Fallon’s house band — noted Lennon’s impact on hip-hop. He explained, “Public Enemy gave Lennon and Yoko Ono a major shout-out on “Bring the Noise” y’know, and how they used their politics for action so yeah, he was definitely influential in how he used his voice and his spotlight.”

Speaking of Yoko, she watched the show from the audience, with Steven Tyler at her side for most of the evening, but did take the stage at one point to thank everyone for participating. She reminisced about her artistic beginnings in the world of classical music, and said when she discovered rock and roll, she was mesmerized. Speaking of the evening’s performances, she told the crowd, “John would say, ‘Rock and Roll is here to stay!’ I love you!”

Quite a few performances over the evening generated standing ovations from the crowd, from The Roots’ completely unexpected, yet brilliant, take on Lennon’s “Mother,” to Willie Nelson’s understated but powerful “Imagine,” to pop singer Aloe Blacc’s passionate rendition of “Steel and Glass,” to a soulful, funky re-imagining of “Jealous Guy” by Train’s Pat Monahan.

Other performers included country stars Chris Stapleton, Eric Church and Kris Kristofferson, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers and the band Spoon. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney both sent videotaped messages. Ringo’s message also included onstage footage of him performing a song Lennon wrote for him: “I’m the Greatest.”

Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert, hosted by Kevin Bacon, airs on AMC December 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Here’s a list of who sang what:

John Fogerty — “Give Peace a Chance,” “In My Life”
Peter Frampton — “Norwegian Wood”
Juanes — “Woman”
Aloe Blacc — “Steel and Glass,” “Watching the Wheels”
Sheryl Crow — “A Hard Day’s Night”
Kris Kristofferson, Tom Morello w/harmonica player Mickey Raphael — “Working Class Hero”
The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, Chris Stapleton and Sheryl Crow — “Don’t Let Me Down”
Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson — “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
The Roots — “Mother”
Spoon — “Hey Bulldog,” “Cold Turkey”
Willie Nelson — “Imagine”
Brandon Flowers — “Instant Karma”
Train’s Pat Monahan — “Jealous Guy”
Eric Church — “Mind Games”
Tom Morello w/the NYC Freedom Choir — “Power to the People”
Steven Tyler — Come Together
Steven Tyler & Eric Church — “Revolution”
Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton & Aloe Blacc — “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
All Star Finale — “All You Need Is Love”

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