Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, 2015
Photo: Al Pereria/Getty Images
The GRAMMYs, Billy Joel, Phish: 9 Big Music Moments At Madison Square Garden
To celebrate the diamond anniversary of Music's Biggest Night, the 60th GRAMMY Awards will return to New York City's iconic Madison Square Garden to honor excellence in music performance, recording and craft on Jan. 28.
In honor of the GRAMMY Awards' latest musical milestone, here's a look back at nine of music's biggest moments that went down at the beautiful venue where this year's show will be held.
George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh, 1971
To spread awareness and raise funds for relief efforts for refugees in East Pakistan who were fighting to found the now-independent nation of Bangladesh, former Beatles guitarist George Harrison, along with close friend and collaborator Ravi Shankar, hosted a back-to-back pair of benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 1, 1971, raising nearly $250,000 through UNICEF. Boasting sets by Harrison, Shankar and GRAMMY-nominated Bengladeshi classical musician Ali Akbar Khan, along with Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, among others, the concerts attracted more than 40,000 combined attendees. Recordings of the event were later compiled and released as a concert film and live album, with the latter taking home Album Of The Year honors at the 15th GRAMMY Awards.
John Lennon's Final Live Appearance, 1974
Stepping onstage as a surprise guest during a Thanksgiving concert held by Elton John on Nov. 28, 1974, John Lennon made what turned out to be the final live appearance of his career at Madison Square Garden. Lennon's three-song set with John — consisting of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," "I Saw Her Standing There" and the then-recent Lennon hit featuring John, "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" — was the result of a promise he had made that he'd join the "Candle In The Wind" singer onstage if their collaboration charted No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — a feat he did not believe would ever occur. Instead, the song became the only No. 1 hit of Lennon's solo career, and he made good on his promise. In a further flash of his old trademark wit, Lennon also introduced the duet of the Beatles' hit "I Saw Her Standing There" as "a song written by an old estranged fiancée of mine called Paul."
No Nukes: The MUSE Concert For A Non-Nuclear Future, 1979
Hosted by the nascent activist group Musicians United for Safe Energy, formed in 1979 by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Harvey Wasserman, and John Hall, the No Nukes concert series was held at MSG in September 1979, and comprised five nights of music aimed at promoting safe alternatives to nuclear energy in the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident earlier that year. Featuring musical appearances by Crosby, Stills And Nash, James Taylor, Chaka Khan, Doobie Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron, Tom Petty, among others, the concert series is particularly notable for its companion live album and documentary film, both titled No Nukes, which contain the first official live audio recordings and performance footage of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, who played sets during two of the five concerts.
Barbra Streisand: The Concert, 1994
GRAMMY-winning songstress Barbra Streisand's 1994 concert tour — her first live appearances in 27 years — was heralded by Time as "the music event of the century." Her appearance at Madison Square Garden provided the source material for a live album and HBO concert special, both monolithically titled Barbra Streisand: The Concert. Backed by an all-out media promotion blitz across radio, TV and print, Streisand earned the distinction of being the highest-paid concert performer in history at the time, and the MSG show became the highest-grossing single concert of 1994. The HBO special achieved the highest ratings ever for a concert special in the network's then-histor, and earned five Emmys and a Peabody Award. The live album also earned GRAMMY nominations for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("Ordinary Miracles") at the 37th GRAMMY Awards.
The GRAMMYs' First Trip To MSG, 1997
The 39th GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 26, 1997, was the inaugural paring of Music's Biggest Night and the Garden. The night of notable firsts was a major step forward for the GRAMMYs — marking the show's first big step from auditoriums to a major arena. Among other highlights, the evening saw 14-year-old country music phenom LeAnn Rimes become the youngest GRAMMY winner ever when she took home GRAMMYs for Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("Blue").
The Concert For New York City, 2001
Organized by former Beatles bassist Paul McCartney in response to the devastating terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Concert For New York City represented a city in turmoil collectively standing together and making the decision to show the world that, even in the face of tragedy, music can sow hope where despair seeks to take root. Held at Madison Square Garden five weeks after the attacks, the event honored the New York City fire and police departments, the victims of the attacks and their families, and the people of New York City who were still working to rescue, recover and rebuild. The concert featured more than 60 music luminaries, including the Who, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, David Bowie, John, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, Backstreet Boys, and James Taylor, among others.
Verizon Ladies First Tour Hits MSG, 2004
With support from Verizon, in 2004 GRAMMY winners Beyoncé, Missy Elliott and Alicia Keys set out on the first major tour highlighting female stars in the urban music scene. Booked in support of Elliott's fifth album, This Is Not A Test!, Keys' Best R&B Album GRAMMY-winning sophomore release, The Diary Of Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé's Best Contemporary R&B Album GRAMMY-winning solo debut LP, Dangerously In Love, the three-act show sold out MSG on April 12, 2004, making the night the third-highest-grossing appearance of the entire tour.
Billy Joel's Record-Setting Appearances, 2006
The eternally touring favorite son of both New York's small club and grand arena music scenes, Billy Joel smashed MSG's record for most sold-out appearances in a single tour by selling all 12 scheduled appearances at the New York arena in 2006. The record was first set by Elvis Presley in 1972 with four shows, and was then held by Springsteen And The E Street Band, who sold out 10 nights with his 1999 Reunion Tour. The achievement also earned Joel the distinction of being the only non-athlete to earn a retired number ("12") on a jersey hanging in the arena. This coming summer will mark another MSG triumph for Joel, as his July 18, 2018, concert will mark his 100th performance at the venue.
Phish: The Baker's Dozen, 2017
The GRAMMY-nominated psychedelic jam band Phish set an intriguing record with their Baker's Dozen shows at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 2017 — the longest string of consecutive nightly appearances by a band. Trey Anastasio & Co.'s well-established reputation for both possessing a deep catalogue, and the ability to expand those songs into extended live grooves that often time out north of 25 minutes, was on full display during the 13 consecutive shows that made up the aptly named concert series. To wit, they played a total of 26 sets, comprising 237 songs across the two-week residency, and they never played the same song twice.