This year’s Newport Folk Festival was quite eventful! Not only did country supergroup the Highwomen make their official debut performance, the fest ended with an all-star event called “I Had A Song” featuring a number of big names covering some of the best tunes ever. That’s how we got Kermit The Frog performing “Rainbow Connection” with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and erstwhile Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. But much more transpired during the set.
As JamBase points out, the house band for “I Had A Song” comprised Weiss, Wilco bassist John Stirratt, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, and Dawes singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith. They backed up performers including Trey Anastasio, Brandi Carlile, Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Hozier, and Hurray For The Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra.
Depending on your Muppets interest level, perhaps the most intriguing part of the set centered on Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold. After performing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On),” Pecknold welcomed the Shins’ James Mercer and Casey Foubert, and Fruit Bats’ Eric Johnson for a run through Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song’s namesake, Judy Collins, emerged near the end to help them finish out the cover. Collins and Pecknold then led a run through the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
Or maybe you’d perk up even more urgently at news of Carlile and Segarra covering Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer” with members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band? A large group including Staples, Isbell, and Hozier also did Pete Seeger’s “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize,” while the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and the Milk Carton Kids closed out the event with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Members of Portgual. The Man covered the Kinks’ “Strangers,” Hozier and Lake Street Dive teamed up on Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” and Tench and Goldsmith fronted a run through Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
Watch footage of many of these tunes below.