Sunday, February 7, 2010

Charity Re-Makes.

I was 10 years old in 1985. In school (5th grade) we were learning about the famine in Africa. When We Are The World by US For Africa came out, it was monumental. Everyone was talking about it. I had a 45 record that I played over and over. Musicians from all genres came together to do something wonderful.

Now, 25 years later, the same thing is happening. I was all ready to write this blog about what I thought was happening, which was someone decided to re-make We Are The World for Haiti. Before I got around to writing this blog, however, I learned that that is not true. It turns out that Lionel Ritchie and Quincy Jones had been planning for months to do an 25th Anniversary re-make on January 28, 2010. When Haiti was struck with the devastating earthquake, they changed it to be a fund raiser for the people there.

The fact that Ritchie and Jones were behind this re-make, and not someone else gives it credibility, however I am not a fan of the re-make in general. Especially when the motivation behind it changes. Does so easily giving away a moment in time take away from the issues in Africa? Are we to forget Africa in lieu of the current world disaster? And what about our own (American) disasters? Hurricane Katrina, anyone? Sure, musicians did benefit concerts, but was there a song recorded (or re-recorded) to mark that moment in history? Who makes the decision as to which catastrophe is worse and deserves more attention and money? Years after Katrina, I had an internet friend who was still trying to re-build her house and make it a home. The money ran out, and they lived for a long time in temporary housing and then in a partially completed home while they worked on it themselves after work and on weekends. Where was the relief when she needed it? If someone wants to create something new "commemorate" the devastation in Haiti, to raise money for the people suffering, have at it. But be original. I guess we'll see how it turns out on Friday, February 12th, when the song is debuted at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

And then there is the other song. It hurts me just to write it here, but for thoroughness I feel I should. Simon Cowell has re-made R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts. You can watch the original version here. In a recent article in the Guardian entitled Why British pop let cool get in the way of a good charity single, the author says "There's nothing like a charity single for making musicians pull together – as long as they're American." As much as I dislike the idea of a new We Are The World, at least the rest of the world thinks America is great because of their generosity of spirit. An article online at BBC Magazine talks about the meaning of the song and how it relates (or does not relate as the case may be) to the situation in Haiti. The comments at the end are worth reading as well, as at least half of them defend my thoughts on re-purposing an existing song.

I have heard the new version of Everybody Hurts. It hurts my ears. Listening to it (I had to listen to give it a chance and be fair about it, right?) I received a death threat from my loving husband. If you dare, you can listen to the entire song here. Just scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. Or you can (watch) listen to it here.

What I did not know in 1985 was that in England, Band Aid had been formed in 1984 and released a song to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia as well. Nid introduced me to Do They Know It's Christmas the other day, and I got the same feeling watching it as I did watching We Are The World the first time. Curious as to whether or not it had been re-made over the years, we found out that it had.
Here is the original version

And here it is re-made for Band Aid 20

It does not have the same vibe, and to me that equals less feeling, less dedication, less commitment to the cause. The more edited and photographic, the less it is about the music and the reason for the music.

But of course, this is all just my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Do the know its Christmas is one of my fav songs!! I think the meaning is great and it doesn't hurt that my DD boys are in it!


Jenny said...

Hey Steffany, it is great. I'm not sure how I didn't know about it all this time. And actually, I did think of you when I saw them in the video. You and DD are synonymous with me now :)

Expat mum said...

I'm glad you mentioned the British originals. I was very proud of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure at the time for putting Band Aid together. The summer concert that year was un-bloody-believable. They had Phil Collins fly from London to Philly and play at both concerts. I get very homesick when I hear "Do They Know It's Xmas".

I agree that it's sad that one catastrophe wipes out our collective memory of everything else on the panet. I have friends who are running a hospital in Haiti right now and are in dire need, but i am also the sponsor of a small school in Ghana where most of the kids are AIDS orphans. I know it will be harder to raise money this year for it and the children will suffer.
It's people buying $1000 handbags that really piss me off. Must you?

Expat mum said...

Just listened to EVerybody Hurts, and while no one is going to sing it as well as Mick Hucknell, it's not bad. And anyone saying this is lining Simon Cowell's pockets ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Michelloui said...

I have been treading very lightly around the Haiti vs 'other desperate plights' issue. I know Haiti needs a huge amount of help and support right now (they needed a lot before the earthquake) and I know there are any people around the world who need a huge amount of support--all the time. The way I coped with it was to give to Haiti, and to give as I have been doing to the other places. Like many people, I simply don't know how else to handle it.

Jenny said...

Expat mum - I hope that both your friend's hospital and your school do well this year raising money. It's just so hard sometimes to decide where to share one's extra money. I've felt extra guilty this year, because of our upcoming move, I haven't even been able to donate to the places that I normally give. You are so right about people buying unnecessary expensive items for themselves. There are so many worthy causes out there that could benefit from the money spent on one designer handbag or other item.

Michelle - I know what you mean, and I knew that I risked upsetting people with my comment, but it was really bothering me. Since I'm rather isolated at the moment, my blog takes the brunt of my venting. It is a horrible thing that so many people are in need. I am certainly not against raising money for a cause. I think it hit such a nerve with me because of my friend that got so little help after Katrina.

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