Elton John and Bernie Taupin honored with prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sir Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin were honored with the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, making a point to underscore that their musical legacy is in harmony with their philanthropy, especially the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“If you’re successful, you have to give back. That was my mantra in 1980 when I got sober, and it’s been my mantra ever since,” John told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.


Accompanied by Taupin and clad in a resplendent pink suit, John, who celebrates his 76th birthday on March 25, also gave his perspective on the enduring appeal of their music.

“The songs last because they cover different territories. ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ is not like ‘Burn Down the Mission,’ and ‘Daniel’ is not like ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.’

Taupin added: “Our palette is full of color.”

The evening’s entertainment was a range of musical styles by a collection of renowned performers that included Garth Brooks, Charlie Puth, Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell, Annie Lennox and host Billy Porter. A televised version is set to air April 8 on PBS.

Metallica set the stage ablaze with a powerful rendition of “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” from the iconic John-Taupin “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album, igniting the atmosphere with their high-octane energy.

Elton John shares a laugh with Bernie Taupin, left, and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, right, during the 2024 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tribute concert honoring John and Taupin at DAR Constitution Hall on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Following a soulful rendition of “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” Garth Brooks, a former Gershwin Prize recipient, raised his hat triumphantly, eliciting a thunderous standing ovation from the audience.

Brandi Carlile enchanted with her rendition of “Madman Across the Water,” and the crowd swayed along to Maren Morris’s captivating performance of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

Last year’s honoree, Joni Mitchell, graced the stage alongside Lennox and Carlile for the fitting rendition of “I’m Still Standing.” By the evening’s close, four illustrious Gershwin Prize recipients shared the spotlight as John and Taupin joined Mitchell and Brooks in this esteemed club.

Perhaps, the most energetic performance of the evening belonged to Jacob Lusk of the group Gabriels. He launched into a dynamic rendition of “Bennie and the Jets,” captivating the crowd — including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sen. Tim Scott — bringing them to their feet swaying and singing along.

Before Lennox took on “The Border Song,” she praised John’s unwavering commitment to combating the AIDS epidemic, describing it as “immeasurable.”

“He seems to be very comfortable with his fame and he’s used it in a way that has made massive global differences in really significant, areas… HIV and AIDS is a massive, massive challenge. And yet Elton was doing it and still doing it, saving lives,” Lennox said on the red carpet.

Following the honor bestowed by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, John treated the audience to a three-song performance, featuring “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Your Song,” with Taupin at his side by the piano.

Established in 2007, the Gershwin Prize has previously celebrated icons such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

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