Music for Ears in New York...
Madison Square Garden, or more affectionately known as "the Garden," was the setting Tuesday night where music recognized and paid tribute to a friend. Sting, James Taylor, Brian Wilson, Roger Waters, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffett, Don Henley and John Mellencamp gathered together to remember Timothy White, editor of Billboard Magazine, who died suddenly in New York on June 27, at age 50 leaving behind a wife and two children - one child autistic.
Most benefit or tribute concerts of this magnitude are reserved for those legendary performers or artists whose lives and work have altered the world in which we live, or to lend heart and money to a needy cause. This event was unlike most others as it was the love for a friend and his family, and the desire to provide some security in their lives that brought some of music's renowned together on this special night. Timothy White has obviously overwhelmingly affected the people with whom he knew as his friends.
Mr. White's long and established relationship with music spanned more than 25 years as a journalist for Crawdaddy, editor of Rolling Stone and most recently, as editor of Billboard Magazine. He was highly esteemed for his journalistic work; his many articles and books well known. But, perhaps to those who knew him - he is likely remembered for his candor, integrity, loyalty, friendship and as a champion of artists' rights. These are the values that brought about this joyous and moving remembrance.
Entering the Garden after the show began, having been delayed mid-way between New York and New Jersey due to a power failure, I could hear 'Surfin' USA' growing louder as I raced up the escalator to my section. Unfortunately, due to this delay, I missed the tribute that began the evening, and sadly, missed all of Brian Wilson's performance. As I entered the seating area, I noticed two large screens that displayed the theme of the evening's tribute "Music to My Ears" with a graphic red and white printed bow tie with musical notes. The bow tie and white bucks were the signature fashion accessories of Timothy White.
Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Buffet appeared on the two large screens hanging overhead and delivered his videotaped remembrance before taking the stage, sparking the audience with the comment "There used to be parrotheads on this island," Parrotheads sprung from their seats - anxious to hear their favourite tunes. None were disappointed I'm certain, as Jimmy delivered the favourites, including 'Margaritaville', which was a clear crowd-pleaser.
Roger Waters' dedication set a different mood as the former Pink Floyd lead spoke of his relationship with Timothy White. The past came rushing back as he took the stage and offered a touching 'Wish You Were Here' and ending his performance with 'Comfortably Numb', joined by Henley on guitar and vocals, clearly a highlight of the evening.
As a long-time fan of James Taylor, I am always thrilled to hear him perform. That voice is still magnificent and the emotion he presents when he performs still moves me after all these years. How can you not love James Taylor? His performance of four songs included 'October Road', 'I Can't Stop Thinkin 'Bout That' and 'Mexico', performed with Buffett and, the beautiful 'You Can Close Your Eyes', with Sting. Their incredible harmony and the lyrics "You can close your eyes, it's alright, and you can sing this song when I'm gone" touched us all. How magnificent to hear James and Sting perform this beautiful song together. All I could think was "more, please!"
The concert included a short intermission after James' performance. During the break, I looked above and my eyes focused on the large screens "This is our town." I took special note of the championship banners and retired jerseys of basketball and hockey legends, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Rod Gilbert and others. I thought - how fitting and how special it was to create this event in such a special place. Music's finest commanded this arena this night, where some of the world's finest athletes had made their way to greatness.
After the break - Bill Murray's image appeared on the large screen. Fumbling with a bow tie, he talked about Timothy White as being a "man's man," that he liked beer but, he was no athlete (which made me smile thinking about those jerseys above me). It appears that Bill and Timothy White may have had a similar sense of humour as they both may have had similar ideas about Marie Osmond - one of the hottest girls they'd ever made contact with. If I recall, I believe he referred to Marie as "a volcano" and he wondered whether Marie ever thinks about "the guy in the white bucks that got away." Enough said. The taped message ended with Bill in full view - bow tie to white bucks. He picked three stones up from the ground and tossed them one by one at a large bell behind him. As each stone hit, a lovely and solemn tone rang out. The gesture did not escape me.
Sheryl Crow's dedication included her mentioning that was sure that Tim would be watching enjoying the evening. She commented though, that he might have changed the set list. She looked absolutely fabulous and she rocked the audience with 'If It Makes You Happy', 'I'm Gonna Soak up the Sun' (with a new line, "Tim White is still here"), and ending with 'Steve McQueen'.
Don Henley, roused all of the Eagles fans with another favourite, 'The Boys of Summer', along with fellow Eagle guitarist Timothy Schmidt. Joined by Sting to sing Bob Marley's 'Get Up Stand Up', the audience wasted no time rising to their feet to sing this anthem and dance along with a very enthusiastic Sting, who appeared to be having quite a good time.
Sting's videotaped message took on a much more sombre tone. I did not know that Timothy White had been involved with the September 11th concert and recording. I was very moved when Sting described that Tim was with him on that day and the days after. Sting spoke about the feelings they shared and that they went to a local monastery to pray on the day after the disastrous attack against the United States.
This brought me back to that day - and I remembered again how we all felt and how many of us did the same thing - visiting houses of worship, joining in candlelight ceremonies, praying. This was one of the last few times that Sting saw Timothy White. Obviously, one can't truly feel the pain of another when someone close to them leaves this earth, but we can certainly identify with these feelings from our own personal experiences. We've all experienced the pain of grief in one way or another. But, as time passes, the pain lessens and we continue with our lives doing what we do, and Sting did it very well - taking the stage with Dominic Miller to give us the music we love so much. Sting appeared happy and rested as he launched into the jazzier version of 'Roxanne' and then moved on to perform 'Fields of Gold', which he sung beautifully. 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' again, had a different meaning this evening and the crowd joined him in both feeling and voice which led seamlessly into 'Every Breath You Take' - a crowd favourite.
John Mellencamp was the final performer of the evening. John spoke from the heart of his relationship with Timothy White - remarking how important he was to him and the course his career had taken over the years. That rocker from Indiana kept the audience going with 'Paper and Fire', 'Small Town', and he was joined by Patti Smyth to perform 'Little Pink Houses'.
The entire group then took the stage together for the finale that included 'This Train' and 'Everyday People'. Sting was clearly having quite a good time - the most animated of the group, dancing, clapping hands and singing with Sheryl, Patti and the others.
So, the friends came together to share their love of a man who clearly gave much to each of them individually, by their own accounts. They shared this love with their fans and in doing so, we were allowed a glimpse of a man we would not have otherwise known. This man celebrated - his life, his love of family and friends, honor and integrity mattered to him and, he loved music. If Timothy White was watching and dancing badly, as they said, I'm sure he knows who his friends are and, after all, what's more important in life than that?
(c) Doreen Miller for Outlandos/Sting.com