We Aren’t the World

There won't be snow in Africa this ChristmastimeBob Geldof will probably be best remembered not for his vocal stylings with the Boomtown Rats, but for the “Live Aid” concert held (primarily) at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985. Bob is back, this time with what’s being called “Live 8,” a concert to be held in Hyde Park on July 2, with a lineup including McCartney, Sting, Madonna, Coldplay, the Cure, R.E.M., and even Mariah Carey. The event is, in Geldof’s words, “not for charity but for political justice.” It is meant to draw attention to the appalling conditions that exist in many places on the African continent. The concert will be followed, not coincidentally, by the G8 summit in Edinburgh, Scotland; Geldof is urging people to go to Edinburgh to protest on behalf of debt relief and aid for Africa. Oh, yes, U2 will be at Live 8, though that should go without saying.*

What’s interesting to consider is whether concerts and attendant or associated protests have the same cultural resonance that they once did. The fact that there are artists and performers who are willing to forego their usual stipends for a live performance on behalf of people less fortunate has always been a good thing, although one might wonder whether there aren’t PR consultants who are recommending the participation of, say, Sirrahs Paul and Elton (yes, he’s scheduled, too) in order to maintain public visibility, which can have positive consequences on their disc sales. Perhaps it was ever thus. Without the counsel of the high-priced advisor. The old saw has it, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Only one part of that is correct.

What’s interesting about this event is that while ostensibly drawing the attention not only of popular music fans everywhere—well, at least in the western world—to the plight of less fortunate people, but also to make the likes of George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, and the other five leaders to pay heed to the plight in Africa, this is found on the official G8 Gleneagles 2005 website:

Why is the G8 focusing on Africa in 2005?

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world that has got poorer in the last generation. Its share of world trade halved between 1980 and 2002. It makes up 13% of the world’s population and 28% of world poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of the world’s AIDS epidemic. To date 13 million men, women and children have died of AIDS, and 26 million are now living with the virus. Nigeria alone is home to 10% of the world’s total number of people living with HIV and AIDS. Maternal and child mortality rates have increased, and a woman has a one in 13 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. These challenges represent a compelling call for international cooperation to support the continent’s efforts to achieve lasting progress.

Apparently, the leaders have noted it. But outside of Geldof, Bono, and possibly Sting, what about the rest of the musical community? “Would you like a T-shirt with that?”

* The U.S. venue is the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the lineup is to include Bon Jovi; Maroon 5; P Diddy; Stevie Wonder; Jay-Z; The Dave Matthews Band; Sarah McLachlan; Rob Thomas; Keith Urban; 50 Cent; the Kaiser Chiefs; and the host, Will Smith.

12 thoughts on “We Aren’t the World”

  1. Good job with the article. I understand the basis for wanting to do something like this, but in a time when so many people have been complaining about celebs getting involved in political and world issues, it seems wierd that something this big(and random) would take place. I’ve always found it odd that some of the most wealthy people(or at least comfortably living) in the wolrd, would tell everyone else how bad people have it/who we should feel sorry for/who deserves our attention now, when I’m pretty sure the majority of them[celebs] don’t give a fuck beyond how it might help their image.

  2. While it’s impossible to sort out genuine concern from marketing on the part of the performers, I think the big question is what impact will it have? I honestly think a gritty, well-made documentary would have more impact in general. There have been so many charity/awareness concerts that they’ve become kind of a joke. Everyone just sort of goes, “Yeah, that’s bad, all right – WOOO! Fiddy Cent!”

  3. That 8 on the “Live 8” logo looks a lot like a dollar sign at first glance.

    Will celebrity concerts make world leaders notice and take action?

    Agreed that the charity/awareness concerts are too ubiquitous now to make much of an impression.

    Also there’s so much suffering and issues in the world now that it’s all a bit of a blur.

  4. One interesting aspect of all this is that Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the Exchequer, has come out in favor of relieving the African debt and for a “Marshall Plan” for the continent, and that his boss, Tony Blair, is going to be heavily lobbying Bush for some serious aid for Africa. Hmm. . .somewhat ahead of the Geldof curve. Maybe he can continue on his other project, which is to reunite the Spice Girls.

  5. Celebrity studded concerts for charity have become a cliche but only a total cynic (fool) would write off an event that Geldof is behind. He practically invented this type of event and his character is pretty well intact 20 years after the original. Best of all is his punk spirit. Geldof has never minced words and is fearless when it comes to shining a light on creeps…both celebrity and politcal ones. He’s already stirring up shit by calling the new pope out for crying out loud! I was at the show in Philly in 85′ and would consider going again if the musical lineup had much to offer my 38 year-old self. Regardless, I’ll be watching with interest the show and in particular the publicity leading up to the show. I can’t wait to see who he agitates along the way. Some idiots are already complaining that there aren’t enough “artists of color” on the schedule. Same crap they said last time. Talk about missing the point.

  6. Posh Spice is a stick with legs, a walking eating disorder, and about as sexy as a birch tree. Everyone knows that Ginger and Scary Spice were always the 2 hotties in that group.

  7. I would like to think that most artists have the right intentions in mind when they lend their celebrity to “causes” like this. Our media don’t seem to be interested in reporting on anything that isn’t popular or related to JLo in some way. I think it’s great when Geldof or whomever uses their public profile to shine a light on something that we ambivalent schmoes living in the relative comfort of the West wouldn’t otherwise hear about.

    But the risk that celebrities take is that the concern has to be perceived as coming from an honest place, otherwise it’s just crass.

    Make what you will of Bono. Obviously the guy is committed to leaving the world a better place than he found it. He could spend his free time holed up in his castle lighting $1000 cigars with $100 bills, but he doesn’t. He stumps for causes. Having said that, I think it’s important to always consider ALL of a person’s possible motivations before making judgements about his/her character.

    I saw something awhile ago that was, at the very least, an interesting theory. Something very timely with the announcements about Live 8. Czech it out and decide for yourself:


  8. Ha ha

    http://www.live8.com is the website for our crapy local NBC affiliate in West Michigan. They actually did a story about that fact on their evening news program.

    So funny. I wonder how many people will be typing that into their browser, only to find themselves looking at some shitty local news site.

    ha ha

  9. I guffaw at this Live 8 stuff simply because the first one didn’t make a difference (the article mentions it has gotten progressively worse in Africa) and I am sure the same sentiments were voiced at this time, the dire need to rectify Africa’s impoverish epidemic…plus, doesn’t like 85% of the revenue go to production cost, stars and such…it just a glorified “rub elbows, make contacts” party for the performers

  10. Now that it seems that the G8 will pretty much cancel the debt of many of the African countries, makes you sort of wonder. . . .

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