2016: The year in tribute songs (with videos)

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform "Rebel, Rebel" in Pittsburgh.

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform “Rebel Rebel” in Pittsburgh, Jan. 16.

As any serious music fan knows, a remarkable and possibly unprecedented number of hugely popular and important artists have died this year, including David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey of The Eagles, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, Beatles producer George Martin, Keith Emerson, Bernie Worrell, Mose Allison, Sharon Jones, and Alan Vega of Suicide. There are many others as well, of course, but those are just some of the biggest names.

Understandably, there have been tribute songs at many concerts throughout the year, with the rich, influential catalogs of Bowie and Prince receiving the most attention.

Bruce Springsteen has led the way, with four different tributes at four different shows. But there have been lots of other tributes, too, at other concerts. So here are the Springsteen songs, as well as tributes at other shows — most but not all in New Jersey — in chronological order.

Willie Nile: “Heroes” at House of Independents in Asbury Park, Jan. 14, in tribute to David Bowie.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: “Rebel Rebel” at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Jan. 16, in tribute to David Bowie.

Rob Thomas: “Heroes” at Music Box at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Jan. 17, in tribute to David Bowie.

Bruce Springsteen and Soozie Tyrell: “Take It Easy” at the United Center in Chicago, Jan. 19, in tribute to Glenn Frey.

Jackson Browne: “Take It Easy” at Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, Jan. 25, in tribute to Glenn Frey.

Michael Stipe and Karen Elson: “Ashes to Ashes” at Carnegie Hall in New York, March 31, in tribute to David Bowie

Paul McCartney: “Love Me Do” at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, April 13, in tribute to George Martin. (McCartney dedicates the song to Martin and talks about him at the 10-minute mark of this video).

Jennifer Nettles: “Purple Rain” at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, April 21, in tribute to Prince.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: “Purple Rain,” April 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in tribute to Prince.

Bobby Bandiera and Ray Andersen: “The Jean Genie” at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, April 23, in tribute to David Bowie.

Chris Stapleton: “Silver Wings” at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, Calif., April 23, in tribute to Merle Haggard.

The Kennedys: “Purple Rain” at Earth Room Concerts, Lincroft, April 23, in tribute to Prince.

The Zac Brown Band: “Let’s Go Crazy” at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, May 20, in tribute to Prince.

Beyoncé: “The Beautiful Ones” at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, May 23, in tribute to Prince.

The Dixie Chicks: “Nothing Compares 2 U” at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, June 9, in tribute to Prince.

Coldplay: “Heroes” at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, July 16, in tribute to David Bowie.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: “Dream Baby Dream” at the Casa Arena in Horsens, Denmark, July 20, in tribute to Alan Vega.

Bill Kirchen: “Hounds of Bakersfield” at The Record Collector in Bordentown, Sept. 23, in tribute to Merle Haggard.

Norah Jones: “Everybody Knows” at The Olympia in Paris, Nov. 21, in tribute to Leonard Cohen.

Joe Bonamassa: “Hummingbird” at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Nov. 22, in tribute to Leon Russell.

We need your help!


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:

1 comment

David December 31, 2016 - 10:31 am

A great list–but missing the most memorable tribute song of the year by far, Kate McKinnon’s Hallelujah in memory of Leonard Cohen and Hillary Clinton:



Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter