Rating Hurricane Katrina Benefit Songs

Music critic Sarah Bardeen reviews some of the music written for Hurricane Katrina benefit efforts. Bardeen says that some of the tribute songs make for compelling music, but others fall well below the mark.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

After Hurricane Katrina, many recording artists took part in telethons and concerts to raise money for storm victims. Since then, there's been a flurry of new songs and albums tied to hurricane relief. Writer Sarah Bardeen has listened to several of them and she offers this sampling.

SARAH BARDEEN reporting:

Let's start with the best of the best. From the rootsy end of the spectrum, Louisiana native and alt-country hero Marc Broussard responded quickly to the disaster, dedicating all the proceeds from a five-song live recording to the relief effort. Country favorites The Dixie Chicks also score with their down-home and comforting release "I Hope."

(Soundbite of "I Hope")

THE DIXIE CHICKS: (Singing) But I hope for more love, more joy and laughter. I hope you'll have more than you'll ever need. I hope you have more happy ever afters. I hope--and you can all live more fearlessly.

BARDEEN: In an unlikely pairing that actually verges on miraculous, Wyclef Jean and Norah Jones team up for the single "Any Other Day."

(Soundbite of "Any Other Day")

Ms. NORAH JONES: (Singing) This day the only place that I want to go...

BARDEEN: Jones' voice, as always, is a smoky caress and Wyclef proves the perfect slightly gruff foil for her. You'd like it even if its proceeds weren't going to a good cause.

(Soundbite of "Any Other Day")

Mr. WYCLEF JEAN: (Singing) Grandma, grandpa, mother, father, sister, brother, Lord, please, help the child, I heard the preacher say so sadly. I heard the preacher. I see the airplane. I hear the engine. `All aboard.' But you-all can't see me waving the flag. Somebody please wave the flag.

BARDEEN: But probably the best song to come out of the horror of Katrina is Prince's remarkable single "SST."

(Soundbite of "SST")

PRINCE: (Singing) Who will be a guest in your tent?

BARDEEN: This is our Prince, back from contract disputes and name changes, the effortless funkster who could be randy and magnanimous, scathing and uplifting at the same time. Listen to this tidbit of gospel-inspired sweetness.

(Soundbite of "SST")

PRINCE: (Singing) Did you let them die in the rain, in the rain? Endless war, poverty or hurricane? It's time for another groove, like Sade's "Sweetest Taboo." Stop! Oh, oh! Give it to me, give it to me. The sweetest...

BARDEEN: Sadly, not all benefit tracks are created equal. I adore Stevie Wonder but I could take or leave, and more likely leave, the unremarkable "Shelter in the Rain."

(Soundbite of "Shelter in the Rain")

Mr. STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) I'll be your comfort through your pain. And I'll be your shelter in the rain.

BARDEEN: The same goes for "Hold Out a Hand." Edwin McCain and Maid Sharp deliver what can only be described as a maudlin performance of a well-meaning but rather trite song.

(Soundbite of "Hold Out a Hand")

Mr. EDWIN McCAIN & Ms. MAID SHARP: (Singing) Don't believe there's too much pain to ever recover, just take care of each other.

BARDEEN: Now I'm not knocking any effort to get more money to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and I think it's wonderful that musicians have stepped up to contribute their talents, but a good cause doesn't always make for good music. So when you're shopping for benefit tracks, be sure to shop wisely.

BRAND: Sarah Bardeen is a writer living in San Francisco.

(Soundbite of "I Hope")

THE DIXIE CHICKS: (Singing) I hope. I hope. I hope. I hope. I hope. I hope.

Unidentified Man: How long does that go on?

Unidentified Woman: We're stopping.

BRAND: More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.