On the heels of the 24th Winter Olympics closing ceremonies in Beijing, now with the unfolding tragedy in Eastern Europe, I felt compelled to feature this playlist this week in my music blog. The playlist was originally titled “London Calling” highlighting songs with world cities and countries in their title or prominently featured in the song. But in light of the current world state of affairs, I changed the name to “We Are The World” as the theme seemed to better highlight what I feel we need badly right now, perhaps more than ever:
There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
Among the best-selling singles of all time, “We Are The World” featured artists brought together to help support famine relief in Ethiopia included a virtual who’s who of anyone who was anyone in the rock and pop music scene of the 80s, in order of appearance: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles. Chorus members included Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Jackie, La Toya, Marlon, Randy and Tito Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, John Oates, Jeffrey Osborn, Smokey Robinson, members of The Pointer Sisters and Huey Lewis and the News.
These efforts were organized primarily by Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats. He also starred as “Pink” in Pink Floyd’s 1982 film “Pink Floyd – The Wall,” organized the charity supergroup Band Aid, co-writing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, also among the best-selling singles of all time. His efforts culminated in the concert I’ve mentioned on occasion in my weekly blog, as well as in my blog introduction – Live Aid ’86, simulcast from Wembley Stadium, London, and RFK Stadium in Philadelphia, the location I attended with my brothers and uncle.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but while the advent, rise, and prominence of the internet has unfortunately promoted much of our focus and attention to the media and a digital world and life, drawing us away from humanity, it also has the potential to make the world a much smaller place, allowing us to bring those of different countries, continents, cultures, races, religions, and beliefs into our homes and lives, breaking down barriers and helping us see our similarities rather than our differences.
On Facebook yesterday I saw a post about the Human Library. The Human Library is an international organization and movement that first started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000. It aims to address people’s prejudices by helping people talk to those they would not normally meet. The organization uses a library analogy of lending people rather than books. These people often have experienced prejudice, social exclusion, stigma, or other difficulties and challenges in life. Participants can ask them questions so as to learn about the other person and also challenge their own prejudices. It can help us break down barriers and gain care, concern and love for all those around us. What a great initiative to restore our humanity.
Music has the ability to do this as well, to bring us to different genres, cultures, and perspectives. The playlist include songs such as “Marrakesh Express,” “Katmandu,” “Kashmir,” “China Girl,” “Still In Saigon,” “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “London Calling,” “Vienna,” “April In Paris,” “Mexcio,” “Kokomo,” “Panama,” and “Only A Dream In Rio” among others. I included some songs that, while not having a city or country in their title, prominently feature one in their lyrics, such as “In The Days Before Rock & Roll,” “La Isla Bonita,” “An American Dream,” and “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” I did NOT include song with country adjectives in their title, such as “Spanish Eyes,” “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” or “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” Perhaps that’s a theme for a future playlist!
Billy Joel, just referenced above in “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” here with a song from his “Nylon Curtain” album, wrote of the horrors of going off to war in “Goodnight Saigon”:
Elton John’s video of his live cover in Moscow of The Beatles “Back In The U.S.S.R.” now has an eerie, surreal significance with what is going on in the Ukraine right now:
Madonna has seemed to embrace and celebrate foreign culture and history, here playing a young Evita Perron in “Evita” signing “Buenos Aires,” though sorry for the grainy video, the best that’s available on YouTube (rent and watch the movie for better quality – it’s definitely worth a view, for the story, the music, and Antonio Banderas and Madonna’s performances):
And then her exploring all that San Pedro has to offer in “La Isla Bonita”:
Coming full circle, after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 inspired a 25th anniversary recording of “We Are The World” embodying the same enthusiasm, sense of purpose and generosity as the original recording 25 years earlier, joining together to help the people of Haiti. This time assembling some of the top artists of the time, soloists including Justin Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger, Jennifer Hudson, Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Miley Cyrus, Enrique Iglesias, Jamie Foxx, Wyclef Jean, Adam Levine, Pink, Usher, Celine Dion, Orianthi, Fergie, Nick Jonas, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, with old-timers Tony Bennet, Barbra Streisand, Carlos Santana. The chorus included the likes of El DeBarge, Brandy, Jeff Bridges, Zac Brown, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick Jr., John Legend, Julianne Hough, India Arie, Randy Jackson, Bobby McFerrin, Vin Diesel, Gladys Knight, Katharine McPhee, Jason Mraz, Jordin Sparks, Robin Thicke, Rob Thomas, Vince Vaghn, and Ann, Nancy, and Brian Wilson, among others. It was quite the lineup.
We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
Oh, there’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me
When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well let us realize
Oh, that a change can only come
When we stand together as one
And there are people in this world who choose to follow a difficult path to make a difference in the lives of many people, people they don’t even know, and may outwardly seem to have nothing in common with, apart from the humanity they share. One such person is my friend Sean Forrest, who had the compassion, vision, and courage to open a mission in Haiti, establishing an orphanage, a school, an elderly home, and a medical clinic, all to serve the poorest of the poor.
I had the privilege to spend a brief time at his mission with my daughter assisting his efforts in what little way we could. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience.
If anyone is so inclined, and wishes to support Sean’s efforts in serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti, consider making a donation to this more than worthy cause, to reach out to others suffering in the world, in need of our compassion, love, and help.
So I hope this inspires some of you to get out of your comfort zone to find ways to care about those around you. While not a city or country song, I chose to end the playlist with what seems a fitting entreaty by Diana Ross in “Reach Out And Touch”:
Reach out and touch
make this world a better place
if you can.
I hope you embrace the challenge, and strive to make a difference in the world, bringing us all closer together, as well as enjoy the playlist.
I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew. Rediscover the passion of music in your life.
Live in the moment.
Enjoy the moment.
Love the moment.
Listen to the MUSIC!