In the wake of disaster, who reacts with a speed, power, and fury that no government or charitable organization could ever equal? Who’s PR posse punches the clutch and shifts into 5th before even the President’s people can dig up a bewildered child, an eyedropper, and a photographer? Sure, we may sigh with sympathy upon reading devastating headlines and send money to a charitable organization, but only the proper spokesperson can move us... to collectively... burst into song.
I was floored upon reading that Prince hastily recorded not one, but TWO songs for Katrina relief just 5 days after the storm hit New Orleans (less time than it took Sean Penn to get down there with his leaky boat). Meanwhile, Jacko is still collecting a high-profile cast for his Katrina charity single. It sure ain’t 1985 anymore, but in the coming weeks pop music’s A-listers will prove whether a modern-day charity celeb coagulation a-la-USA For Africa is still possible.
Below is a truncated history of charity song superhits (a more extensive list is here):
India-Pakistan War Refugees
- “Bangla Desh” by George Harrison, The Concert for Bangladesh, 1971
Ethiopian Famine Relief
- “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (real audio, click to hear the song played backwards from an archive of Mark Allen's show) written by Bob Geldof for Band Aid, Ethiopian famine relief, 1984 (Band Aid II took place in 1989, Band Aid 20 in 2004)
- “We Are the World” (click to download a teensy snippet in MP3, courtesy of Brian Turner) USA For Africa, famine relief, 1985
- “Tears Are Not Enough” Northern Lights (Canada), 1985
- “Stars” Hear ‘N’ Aid (heavy metal supergroup), 1985
- “Everybody Wants to Run the World” Tears for Fears, Sport Aid, 1986
- “Running All Over the World” Status Quo, Sport Aid, 1986
- “That’s What Friends Are For” Dionne (Warwick) and Friends, 1985
- “What’s Going On” Christina Aguilera, JLo, Britney, Bono, etc., 2001
- “The World Is Ours” Missy Eliot and Justin Timberlake, 2004
- “The Little Ones” Cat Stevens, 1998
- “What More Can I Give” by Jacko, never released (producer made gay porn)
- “El Ultimo Adios” Christina Aguilera, Gloria Estefan, John Secada, et al., 2001
- “Freedom” Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, etc., 2001
Poverty/Hunger (G8 Summit)
- “Every Bomb You Make” (adaptation of "Every Step You Take") by Sting, at Live 8 concert, 2005
- “SST” by Prince, 2005
- “Brand New Orleans” by Prince, 2005
- “From the Bottom of My Heart” MJ, 2005
Venture below the fold for a grip of (un)savory celebrity PSA MP3s and other tripe...
Save the Children (1986)
Barry Gibb's PSA (MP3), why am I deeply offended by Mr. Disco's use of the term "little people"?
Cary Grant's PSA (MP3), great example of inappropriate background music (at least he took the cigar out of his mouth)
National Arbor Day Foundation
John Denver "Plant A Tree" (MP3) It's a song, it's a PSA, it's a psahng.
Charlton Heston, Lloyd Bridges, John Denver, Eddie Albert PSA (MP3) Never would have pegged most of these guys as tree-huggers...