A private home in the Pacific Palisades area of Santa Monica was the setting for rock n’ roll history and millions raised for UCLA Health and Teen Cancer America (TCA), the national non-profit founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who.
TCA’s “Backyard Concert” featured a remarkable line-up of iconic performers including Daltrey and The Who band, Jewel, Van Morrison, Don McLean and the incomparable Ed Sheeran. One of the event’s highlights wouldn’t have happened without the involvement of PR and film exec Rick French, CEO of Raleigh-based French/West/Vaughan. French, who serves on the boards of Teen Cancer America, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, invited McLean to perform at the benefit and introduced him to Sheeran with the suggestion that they collaborate on Vincent, something Sheeran said he has always wanted to do.
Howie Mandel and Judd Apatow served as hosts and auctioneers for the event which raised over $3.5 million for UCLA Health and the TCA mission of serving adolescents and young adults fighting cancer.
The show opened with a soul-stirring performance by Jewel followed by Morrison, McLean and a stunning one-man pop tour-de-force by Sheeran. The evening was closed by Daltrey and crew who unleashed “Pinball Wizard,” “I’m in Tune,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Teenage Wasteland,” “My Generation” and other epic tracks, reminding the world why The Who is arguably the greatest rock band of all time.
Among many memorable moments, McLean, who performed his anthemic “American Pie,” was called back to the stage by Sheeran. “I have three favorite songs,” Sheeran told the delighted crowd, “and Don McLean wrote two of them.” They then performed a duet of “Vincent,” McLean’s haunting ode to Van Gogh. The artists, who had never met, were introduced only minutes before by TCA board member Rick French, who worked with TCA board co-chair Rebecca Rothstein and Peter Bradley, Jr. of the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, to make the performance happen. French captured an impromptu backstage rehearsal on video, which has gone viral around the globe.
A highlight of the fundraising effort was the sale at auction of a Buddy Holly replica guitar featuring the autographs of 75 of the world’s greatest living musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Brian May, Brian Wilson, Dion, Donovan, Peter Frampton, Graham Nash, Don Everly, Elvis Costello and many others, donated by the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.
Other auction items included a refurbished Bally Pinball Wizard machine, circa 1975, built to coincide with the release of The Who’s rock opera film, “Tommy.” The rare item was autographed for the event by many of the stars of the movie, including Daltrey, Townshend, Elton John, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson and Ann-Margret. Additional auction items included a limited edition The Who motorized scooter and highly collectible pieces from famed contemporary street artist RETNA. The auction was conducted live and online by Heritage Auctions.
Prior to the show, after five months of planning and coordination with TCA, CBS Sunday Morning wrapped taping with Roger Daltrey and Sunday Morning correspondent Jim Axelrod, including a visit with teen cancer patients at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital. The segment, tracing Daltrey’s career with The Who and his role as co-founder of TCA, is expected to air in October.