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Picks and Pans Review: A Tribute to John Lennon

updated 08/26/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/26/1991 01:00AM

The Disney Channel (Sun., Aug. 25, 9:30 P.M. ET)

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Musicians can get away with playing songs by the Rolling Stones, the Who or Motown groups. But only fools rush in to cover the Beatles. The Fab Four defined and possessed their material so thoroughly that, almost without exception, other people sound phony if not downright ridiculous when they try to sing it.

That curious legacy is the fundamental flaw in this lengthy tribute to Lennon, which is made up of pop artists performing songs associated with the slain Beatle. Much of it was taped at the 1990 memorial concert for Lennon in Liverpool.

Good intentions don't make it any less garish when Wet Wet Wet desecrates "I Feel Fine," or when first U2 and then Kylie Minogue abuse "Help." Randy Travis is glumly robotic on "Nowhere Man."

The special, hosted by Michael Douglas, contains some great old footage from the '60s in which you can see Lennon mugging and clowning, his spirit and enthusiasm for life shining through. But Lennon's memory is ill-served by his would-be peers. Instead of mauling "Give Peace a Chance," they should just give it a rest.

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