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Elton John and Bernie Taupin receive Gershwin Prize at star-studded night in DC Print-ready version

Michelle Del Rey and Katie Hawkinson were in attendance at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington DC as Elton John and Bernie Taupin became the second and third Brits to receive the prestigious honour

by Michelle Del Rey
The Independent (UK Newspaper)
March 21, 2024

The singer, centre, collected the award together with his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, left (AP)

Glitz and glamour were in no short supply as Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin accepted the 2024 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington DC on Wednesday night.

The prestigious prize is considered to be one of the highest honours for popular musicians, awarded for lifetime contributions to the genre. Prior honorees include Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Garth Brooks, among others.

The recognition is handed down by the US Library of Congress and is named after the Gershwin brothers, two influential contributors to the American songbook.

Sir Elton and Mr Taupin are responsible for more than 25 platinum records, 35 gold records and 30 US Top 40 hits. The duo wrote classics together for at least 50 years; though, neither of them were in the same room during the writing process. Mr Taupin wrote the lyrics and Sir Elton put them to music.

The sequin-studded audience at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall included UK Ambassador to the US Karen Pierce, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in addition to multiple US lawmakers who presented the duo with the award.

More notable even than the attendees were the performers, which included Mitchell, Brandi Carlile, Charlie Puth, Marren Morris, Jacob Lusk, Garth Brooks, Annie Lennox, Metallica and host Billy Porter.

Metallica opened the show, which is scheduled to air 8 April on PBS, with a mashup of "Funeral For a Friend" and "Love Lies Bleeding".

Carlile moved the audience with her version of "Skyline Pigeon" during a part of the ceremony focused on the duo's contribution toward the fight against the AIDS epidemic.

Meanwhile, Mitchell delighted with a cover of Sir Elton's mega-hit "I'm Still Standing", her walking cane in hand. Other covers of "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" were sung by Ms Morris and Mr Puth.

Yet, the most electric performance of the night belonged to Mr Lusk, who received a standing ovation for his theatrical rendition of "Bennie And The Jets". Sir Elton took the stage with Mr Lusk at Glastonbury in 2023 and specially requested he sing at the event.

Once the awards were presented by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Sir Elton treated the audience to anthems like "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters", "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Your Song" with Taupin at his side leaning against the piano as he sang the final number.

Given the venue, politics was not a topic easily avoided. A couple of stars took the opportunity to speak up about causes they care about. Ms Lennox repeated her calls for a ceasefire in Gaza while speaking to The Independent on the red carpet. She later performed "The Border Song" on stage.

Ms Morris, who lives in Nashville, also took the time to get political, saying in no uncertain terms that she would welcome the victory of Democratic senate candidate Gloria Johnson. The incumbent Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn "f***ing sucks", she posited.

While accepting the award, Sir Elton said the event felt like an "acid trip" adding that it was the first time he's sat in an audience and watched his own band perform live. He attributed much of his early musical interest to American artists.

"When I grew up as a little boy in suburban London, the only good music that I heard was American", he said, adding his "world changed" the first time he heard "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley.

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Added to Library on March 21, 2024. (319)

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