The pop-music world staged a high-profile fundraiser for people caught in natural disasters 25 years ago, with Band Aid and USA for Africa. Today, the world's concern is focused on victims of the Haiti earthquake. In the U.S., Quincy Jones has led the charge to re-record USA for Africa's "We Are the World," while in Britain, a song for Haiti has been put together by a perhaps unexpected figure: the British-born American Idol judge, Simon Cowell.
So, as it turned out, Mr. Nasty finally did something nice.
Cowell, known for his acerbic putdowns of a generation of pop-star wannabes, has become part of a campaign led by the Sun newspaper in London — and, it seems, Prime Minister Gordon Brown — to put together a Band Aid-style song for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
"Had a call from PM, got a call from the Sun today, said, 'We want you to make the record,' " Cowell told an interviewer recently. "I have no idea who is going to be on it, and have no idea other than I will make it happen."
Over the past week, Cowell has made it happen: The song, a cover of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," got its first airplay Tuesday morning on one of the BBC's most popular morning programs, The Chris Moyles Show.
"Rather than commission a new song, Cowell went for R.E.M.'s classic, tragic, lilting ballad from 1992," Moyle said on his show.
The singers are a mix of mainly British and American stars — Mariah Carey, Jon Bon Jovi, Miley Cyrus, Robbie Williams and Susan Boyle among them — with some artists singing their tracks at the same studios in London's Notting Hill where the original Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was recorded in 1984.
Even in Britain's famously cynical media and entertainment world — the world that spawned Cowell — the plight of the Haitian people has touched a nerve. Many of the stars involved, such as James Blunt and Rod Stewart, spoke of counting their own blessings as they watched the horror unfold.
"We think it's bad with recession, but it shows how lucky we are," Blunt says. "I'm so stoked to be part of something so meaningful."
"Obviously won't say no. I'm honored to be involved," Stewart adds. "We can do what we do, and think ourselves lucky."