Music for Good: How Musicians Strive for a Better Tomorrow

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Featured Image by Eva Rinaldi

The world is not a perfect place, but sometimes good can be found through unexpected means, such as in music. Musicians across have long used their voices and influence to help others across the world. They have largely utilized their publicity and sales to support others during hard times, both in raising awareness and immense funding to offer a hand in any means possible.

In April 1971, George Harrison initiated the concept of of a charity concert to support UNICEF’s efforts in Bangladesh. The Harrison family has since been involved in the organization for over 40 years.

U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a direct reaction to violence towards civil rights protested in Derry, Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972 during the nation’s conflict with England.

Formed in 1984 in response to BBC coverage of the Ethiopian famine, Band Aid consisted of members of Duran Duran and U2, among others. Their charity show, Live Aid, was held in both Wembley Stadium in the UK and at the JFK stadium in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985. The seventeen-hour live-broadcasted show attracted a total audience of 1.9 billion people in 150 countries and raised $80 million for Ethiopia. The 2005 Live 8 concert was also created under Band Aid.

The group’s Christmas classic “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was reworked one year ago today, November 14, with modern artists including Ed Sheeran, Bastille, Ellie Goulding, and One Direction, largely in response to and support of the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

In 1985, a group of legendary musicians including Elton John and Bruce Springsteen teamed up to form USA for Africa, releasing the powerhouse song “We Are the World,” which won three Grammy awards. $63 million raised from the album and single went towards charity projects across 18 sub-Saharan African countries.

In 2010, the single was revamped to support the earthquake in Haiti, with artists from all genres supporting the cause. Some notable names include Celine Dion, Mary J Blige, and Lil Wayne.

Following 9/11, MTV All Stars, consisting of some iconic names of the late 90’s and early 2000’s including Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Destiny’s Child, released a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” with proceeds split between AIDS research and supporting victims of the attack.

Amnesty International is a global human rights organization that has used music multiple times to promote their cause. Their 2007 release Make Some Noise was a compilation of John Lennon covers by a wide range of artists including Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, and The Cure, with proceeds supporting the crisis in Darfur. In 2014, the organization repeated this format with a Bob Dylan compilation to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, with Lenny Kravitz, Ziggy Marley, Miley Cyrus, and Queens of the Stone Age taking part.

Rise Against are known for being activists, and many of their songs address social and political issues. Notably, the band partnered with the It Gets Better Project to fight bullying of LGBT youth with their video for Make It Stop (September’s Children), which addressed the toll this has taken on young lives. On a global scale, Rise Against responded to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti by donating the month’s merch sales to Doctors Without Borders. The group additionally has an activism tab on their band page to raise awareness for the causes they support.

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