On this day in 1974, John Lennon joined Elton John at Madison Square Garden for a surprise guest appearance. When Lennon walked onto The Garden’s stage that night, nobody could have imagined that it would be his final performance. But live performances were already rare for Lennon at that point, and six years later, before he could have the chance to step onstage for a major performance again, he was murdered outside his Manhattan residence at age 40. Lennon’s sit-in with Elton John on Thanksgiving ’74 marked his last.
Just over two months prior, Lennon had released a new single entitled “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which would go on to be his only #1 hit as a solo act. He did, however, have some help from a pretty fantastic session band, which not-so-coincidentally included Elton John on keys and vocal harmonies.
While recording the track, Elton’s confidence about the single’s potential far exceeded Lennon’s. Playing off Lennon’s self-deprecating skepticism, John got him to agree to a bet: If the single reached #1 on the charts, Lennon had to promise to come play with him at one of his shows. Elton John’s 11/28/74 Thanksgiving show at The Garden saw Lennon making good on that fateful bet. When he did appear, Lennon helped John through their #1 hit in question, “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, as well as renditions of The Beatles classics “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There” (a song by “an old fiancé of mine named Paul. I’ve never sang it before”).
You can relive the storied evening below via audio recordings, photos, and composite video footage from the fateful sit-in with Elton John at The Garden, John Lennon’s last major performance:
John Lennon & Elton John – “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” – 11/28/74
John Lennon & Elton John – “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” – 11/28/74
John Lennone & Elton John – “I Saw Her Standing There” – 11/28/74
Elton John and John Lennon – Video Reconstruction (edited)