NEW YORK (ABCNEWS.com) — John Lennon's "make love, not war" hippie battle cry seemed anything but dated in a star-studded salute to the slain Beatle last night
With New York City, Lennon's adopted home, still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist bombing of the twin towers, the singer's peace anthems, such as "Instant Karma" and "Power to the People," took on an all-new meaning.
Host Kevin Spacey, who pulled off a rousing performance of "Mind Games," got choked up while opening the show, reminding folks that it's the "people, not the places" that must be remembered when looking back on the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Dave Matthews' rendition of "In My Life," was especially poignant, particularly as he sang "I know I'll often stop and think about them."
Similarly, as the Stone Temple Pilots ripped through the Beatles "Revolution," it was impossible not to think of recent violence as they sang the classic line, "But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out."
Throughout each performance, footage of Lennon, often on New York City streets, graced the screen. Alanis Morissette did "Dear Prudence," Lou Reed sang, "Jealous Guy," and Lennon's son Sean performed "Julia," a tune Lennon wrote in tribute to his wife Yoko Ono and his mother.
"I think that most of us in New York are still in shock," said Ono. "And I am too."
"It just seems that now, it's very fitting," Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland told reporters backstage. "Almost in a spooky sort of way."
No Other Beatles Lennon's political views were heard during the broadcast, as video clips of the star were projected behind the performers throughout the night, interspersed with images of New York City fireman, police, and American flags.
One touching image was a clip of Lennon and Ono riding a ferry in the New York harbor with the twin towers in the background.
The show was initially set to air on Lennon's birthday, but was quickly turned into a fund-raising benefit for the Sept. 11 relief efforts.
Ono said she picked young musicians like Nelly Furtado and Craig David for the event out of a desire to bring her late husband's music to a younger generation. The artists who answered questions backstage seemed grateful for the chance to perform his songs and honor his timeless ideas.
David, 20, performed a funked-up version of "Come Together" — three weeks after watching the towers fall from his hotel window in lower Manhattan.
Missing from the night were the remaining Beatles.
Lennon was shot dead in front of his New York City home in 1980 by Mark David Chapman, a deranged gunman.
Lauper in the Park Native New Yorker Cyndi Lauper sang "Strawberry Fields" from that section of Central Park, and credits the Beatles for helping her find her own unique music style.
"The music was innovative, I learned how to sing singing their songs," said Lauper. "I learned harmony listening to John Lennon's voice."
Shaggy, a Gulf War veteran, headed up the ensemble finale of "Give Peace a Chance."
Scene-stealer Spacey might have summed up the spirit of the evening best. When asked how he was personally touched by the events, Spacey was caught in a lengthy pause before commenting on the tragedy.
"We've all known people affected, and people that have lost their lives," said Spacey. "And I think forever we'll be changed, and it's how we respond to that change [that matters], that's what tonight was all about."