Bon Jovi, Rob Thomas, & Don Henley Deliver Heartfelt Musical Tributes To Billy Joel

As has become tradition during GRAMMY® week, the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute dinner held court in Los Angeles on Monday (Feb. 25), this year honoring the legendary Billy Joel in a star-studded gala benefit dinner/concert at the Century Plaza Hotel.

Following in the footsteps of past winners Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John (allstar, Feb. 2, 2000), among others, Joel accepted the award at a press conference before the show with good humor.

"I'm really honored to receive this," said Joel, as Jon Bon Jovi's cell phone was going off behind him. "I'm a little bit flabbergasted. I know when I went to the Soviet Union I did end the Cold War, but that was a long time ago. Maybe it's retroactive."

After a charity dinner that drew the likes of Beck and Paula Abdul, among others, Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas kicked off the musical portion of the evening with a fitting cover of "Only the Good Die Young" from Joel's 1977 album The Stranger.

"I was presumptuous …I asked if I could do it," said Thomas on how he ended up at the dinner. "Billy is a songwriter that you sit down and listen to his albums and think, 'God! Why can't I do that? It's so simple. It's so perfect.' He's always been the consummate songwriter. I've been singing Billy Joel songs since I was 10-years-old."

"I sing to him a lot in the shower," continued Thomas. "A lot of times when I'm getting lathered up, and I'm listening to a little Billy, it's a special moment."

Following Thomas, a slew of triumphant performances snowballed, highlighted by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," Stevie Wonder's "Just the Way You Are," Don Henley's "She's Got a Way," and Garth Brooks ambitious cover of "Goodnight Saigon."

"That took sick balls to do that song," said Joel shortly after Brooks' performance. "I don't even do that song anymore."

Unlike some past winners, Joel did not take the stage to perform himself, but he did step behind the podium for a few words. To that end, it was the piano man who summed the evening up best: "[Wow] Listening to Tony Bennett sing my ****…"

Proceeds from the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute dinner, which also included a silent auction, go to the MusiCares' Financial Assistance Program to help provide musicians with medical and personal assistance as well as providing critical funds for musicians who have grown older with no means of economic support. Monday's event raised nearly $2 million.

Here is the full set list for the 2002 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute dinner to Billy Joel:

1. "Only the Good Die Young," Rob Thomas
2. "All for Leyna," Nelly Furtado
3. "And So It Goes," Diana Krall
4. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora
5. "She's Got a Way," Don Henley
6. "Leave a Tender Moment Alone," Natalie Cole
7. "Opus 2, Waltz No. 1 (Nunley's Carousel)," Richard Joo
8. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," Melissa Etheridge
9. "Goodnight Saigon," Garth Brooks
10. "New York State of Mind," Tony Bennett

-- Kevin Raub