Keith Urban honors musical heroes in this New Year’s Eve tribute YouTube/macartsk

As the year comes to a close, many of us take a few minutes to look back on the previous 12 months. We celebrate our victories and successes, give some perspective to the bumps we hit in the road and maybe even shed another tear for our losses.

During his New Year’s Eve show in Nashville, Keith Urban gave us one more chance to remember some of those losses when he performed a medley of cover songs honoring members of the music industry who we lost in 2017.

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And the big-hearted country star didn’t focus on just his country music peers. Truly showcasing his incredible and diverse talent, Keith paid tribute to popular rock stars, including the legendary Chuck Berry, in his memorial medley, too.

With photos of the artists flashing behind him, Keith kicked off the nearly 10-minute performance acoustically with a part of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” honoring the band’s 52-year-old lead singer and guitarist Chris Cornell who passed away from an apparent suicide.

He then rolled into a bit of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” in tribute to the late Gregg Allman. Gregg passed away in May from complications of liver cancer at the age of 69.

Keith’s rousing version of “Johnny B Good” was a fitting nod to the iconic Chuck Berry. One of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck was 90 when he passed away in March from cardiac arrest.

Of course, Keith honored heroes and friends in country music during the tribute, starting with one of his own inspirations, Don Williams. Scratching out a jangly, toe-tapping bit of “Tulsa Time,” he remembered the artist who he credits for being one of his greatest influences. We lost Don in September from emphysema. He was 78 years old.

In one of the more quiet and pensive moments of the medley, Keith slowed things down to honor another of his personal heroes, Glen Campbell, with a tender verse of “Wichita Lineman.” Glen lost his lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease in September at the age of 81.


One of the most difficult losses in country music, because it was so unexpected, came in September when the country music community lost one of its brightest stars and Keith lost a dear friend. In honor of Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry, Keith performed a chorus of “My Town.” You may recall that Troy died in a helicopter crash at the age of 50.

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Keith’s amazing band then joined him as he broke into that oh-so-recognizable intro to AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” The iconic rock band lost their guitarist, Malcolm Young, this year after a series of health issues, including dementia and lung cancer. He was 64.


An obvious guitar hero and influence on the Aussie ax man, Keith closed out his shows playing Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” Tom passed at 66 after suffering a cardiac arrest in October. Turning the tribute into a giant singalong, the country star brought the mood of the moment back up to a fevered pitch, dividing the audience into segments to sing the chorus.

As devastating as the losses are, it’s helpful to have another chance to bid those heroes and legends farewell and begin a new year with a lighter heart.

Based in Nashville, Tammy is a 20-year veteran of the country music community. She has worked in marketing, PR and artist development. Follow her @TammyGooGoo and join the conversation @RareCountry
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