If Keith Urban had had all night, and his New Year’s Eve medley was twice as long, I’ll bet he would’ve thrown in a few more songs from some of the other artists we lost this year.
Maybe he would’ve done a bit of “September” from Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, some “Father Figure” from George Michael and a little bit of “Lucky Man” as a tribute to the late Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, both from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
But the five-song medley Urban did come up with in downtown Nashville was a powerful tribute to the biggest musical legends who passed away in 2016. It was part of his performance at the Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight New Year’s Eve Celebration, and his wife Nicole Kidman even joined him to share vocals — and dance around the mic a little — during the second half of the tribute.
First up was Leonard Cohen’s 1984 song “Hallelujah.” Cohen died in November His song wasn’t a hit when it was first released, but it went on to find fame as a cover song and as the music playing during a very pivotal point in the 2001 movie Shrek.
Urban moved seamlessly into “Take It Easy,” from the Eagles, who lost founding member and lead singer Glenn Frey in January at age 67. Frey wrote the song with Jackson Browne and released it in 1972. Urban has covered the tune before, even posting a version on his Facebook page right after Frey died. Urban toured with the Eagles in 2010.
The medley stayed settled in the ‘70s, when Urban started in on David Bowie’s “Heroes” from 1977. This was the point when Kidman joined her husband onstage. Bowie died in January 2016 at 69 after a short battle with cancer.
For some old-school country, Urban added Merle Haggard’s 1968 hit “Mama Tried,” a song so revered that it’s hard to find a country artist who hasn’t covered it. Haggard died in April at 79 after complications from pneumonia.
Lastly, Prince. Urban closed out the five-minute medley with Prince’s “Purple Rain,” the title track from his 1984 album and the name of the rock drama Prince starred in that same year. Prince died unexpectedly at 57 in April.
In a video Urban posted on New Year’s Day, reprised some of the songs from the tribute the night before and did include a George Michael song, his 1984 hit “Careless Whisper.” While Michael co-wrote the song with his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley, it was his first release as a solo artist and it made it to the top of the U.S. charts in 1985.