Originally posted February 13, 2010...
Something has always tickled me about charity singles. You know the ones, where a bunch of celebrities agree to be in the same room for a few minutes, hold one earphone to their heads (I guess putting headphones all the way on ruins your hair), and groove for a good cause. I don’t question their intentions, it’s wonderful to give of your time and talent for something charitable, but it comes across as the most brilliant combination of selflessness and narcissism.
Consider, for example, the recent remake of We Are the World, featuring everyone famous ever. They all warble off half a line, in turn, until they get to the chorus where everybody sings at once and Celine Dion tries to overpower them all and you get the sense that Tony Bennett doesn’t know where he is. All the stars are delightfully mismatched. For instance, did Barbra Streisand and T-Pain go to McDonald’s after and chill? Did Vince Vaughan give Miley Cyrus the key card to his hotel room? (Yes, and yes). The video is poignant and a little ironic. It features footage of a destroyed Haiti, intercut with these famous people reciting the easiest lyrics ever (although Justin Bieber, god bless her, has the lyrics in front of her because “we are the world/we are children” is not an easy phrase to remember).
I know this makes me sound so fucking cynical, but consider this: What if, in addition to recording this song, there was a $200 000.00 attendance fee for each celebrity? Or, in order to participate in one of those Clooney-run telethons, you had to pay a million bucks? To ask John Q. Public to donate to Haiti is fine, but put your money where your mouth is. Maybe then some of the Black Eyed Peas wouldn’t make the cut, but wouldn’t it be a gas to see Bono with some ancient Swiss gazillionaire rockin’ out?
I’ve attended three “nights” for Haiti so far, and even performed in one (although I followed a guy who made a bunch of jokes about rape, making it a tough crowd to win over), and at each event, at least one person in the audience made a crazy large donation just because he or she wanted to. One guy sitting at the table next to me went to the ATM in the bar, took out a hundred and forty bucks, and put it in the hat! This was not in some ritzy place downtown either, but a crummy old timer bar in Greektown. And nobody at any of these events was paid anything, or given free drinks, or any publicity. People were just there because they wanted to help out, even a little.
But, despite their flawed premise, these “charity singles” do make a lot of cash. So my only choice is to beat these high-rollers at their own game. It is my new dream.
Dream: To write and record the best charity song ever.
Goal: Achievable. In addition to this blog and my grocery list, I’ve written a few things. I don’t have any musical talent, but I have friends who do (Mike Fry, get working).
Plan: Assemble all the celebrities I can, book some studio time, and get crackin’. I don’t know any A-Listers, but I’m sure those who have fallen off the A-List have nothing better to do. I will write to Joey Lawrence, the lady from the Brand Power commercials, the Baha Men, Paula Abdul, the really, really fat guy on Lost (by the way, aren’t they on a desert island? How does he stay so portly?) and they will be my starting line-up. I don’t have any lyrics yet, but something like:
Gather round, brothers and sisters/
Rich and poor alike/
But not the poor/
‘Cuz we’re trying to make some dough/
There are people who are hurting/
So let us join the fight/
And do something/
Let’s get in the know/
Let’s raise some money/
Let’s not go over there/
Let’s raise some money/
I would go, but I’m scared/
There are people in the world today/
Greater than you and me/
The best in the world/Our celebrities
And so on. A celebrity-driven tribute to celebrities is just the kind of thing to raise money for people in actual peril. So if you have access to famous people, recording equipment, some chips, and a studio space, give me a call. Better yet, actually, why not just make a donation somewhere. It’s the least we all can do.