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Toronto-raised musician plans virtual concert tribute for John Lennon’s 80th birthday

TORONTO — A Toronto-raised musician has recruited some veteran artists for a virtual concert and fundraiser marking what would be John Lennon’s 80th birthday next month.

Blurred Vision frontman Sepp Osley will also host and perform with his band in the “Dear John” livestream event set for the late Lennon’s birthday on Oct. 9.

The show will have pre-recorded performances of Lennon songs and tributes from participants including singer KT Tunstall, bassist John Illsley of Dire Straits, Canadian musician Lawrence Gowan, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” fame.

Osley now lives in London and will host the event live from the city’s Hard Rock Hotel, where he says a small audience will gather while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Funds raised from the free stream, which will be available globally on the Blurred Vision YouTube page, will go to War Child UK.

Osley says helping War Child UK through Lennon’s music is a passion project, given his family fled their native Iran’s revolution and war and moved to Canada in the 1980s.

“(Lennon) was always about peace and love and equality and people coming together,” the singer-songwriter-guitarist said in a phone interview from London.

“I think all of those horrors of escaping war and escaping brutal oppression from the Islamic Republic government upon its own people — something that continues to this day — culminated into the artist I became and led me into the musical arms of my heroes.”

Those heroes include Rush producer Terry Brown, who worked on Blurred Vision’s first two albums, and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, who met the band and gave them full rights and ownership to their cover of “Another Brick in the Wall” with the rewritten chorus: “Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone.”

Osley said he takes a page from the likes of Lennon and strives to make music that brings joy but also helps create positive social change.

“That’s something that we need more than ever in our world, with everything that people are facing.”

This is Osley’s second annual “Dear John” tribute to Lennon and fundraiser concert for War Child UK. The event is named after a Blurred Vision tribute song to Lennon. 

A music video for “Dear John” released last year included an appearance from Peter Gabriel, and snippets of it will be incorporated into the Oct. 9 livestream.

A few years ago “Dear John” also got the attention of the anti-poverty organization WhyHunger in New York, which made the band ambassadors. On the invite of WhyHunger in 2014, they played at the Beatles’ 50th anniversary celebrations in New York.

The artists in next month’s tribute recorded their performances live from their respective locations, with some in their living rooms or music studios.

Others on the bill include singer-songwriter Maxi Jazz of the British electronic band Faithless, Canadian country singer Lindsay Ell, soul singer P.P. Arnold, and performer Nick Van Eede of English rockers Cutting Crew, who did the ’80s hit “(I Just) Died in Your Arms.”

Osley said it’s been tough rounding up everyone during the pandemic but he wanted to do something uplifting, especially for artists struggling during this time.

“I think that’s always been the frame of mind that I’ve had growing up is, even in the darkest times, to look to hope and positivity to get through.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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