As “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” makes a comeback, here’s a look back at a less famous all-star charity single.
In 1984, British rock star Bob Geldof saw a TV documentary about the African famine and was inspired to act. He recruited dozens of A-list British and Irish musicians (Sting, Bono of U2, George Michael, Paul Young, to name a few) and wrote and recorded under the name Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It became one of the bestselling singles ever in the U.K., and generated millions for famine relief.
The next year, American musicians would unite for the same cause in a similar way, as USA For Africa, with the song “We Are the World.” That one was a huge, success, too. From then on, it seems like any time there has been a major tragedy or social ill, musicians have united for a charity single. In 1991, a one-off supergroup called Voices That Care was formed to show that it, uh, cared, about the troops going off to fight in the first Desert Storm conflict in Iraq.
Voices That Care was put together by David Foster, the Canadian songwriter/producer best known for turning the jazz-rock fusion band Chicago into a soft rock hit machine in the ‘80s; and Peter Cetera, the lead singer of Chicago. They wrote the song together and got a who’s who of early 1990s star to chip in. Some of the voices that cared:
- Michael Bolton
- The Fresh Prince
- Bobby Brown
- Garth Brooks
- Katthy Mattea
- Kenny G (playing saxophone)
- Luther Vandross
- Jani Lane of hair-metal band Warrant
This one didn’t hit become a cultural phenomenon like “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are the World.” First of all, both of those songs had a clearly defined, apolitical cause: to generate money to help feed starving people in Africa. “Voices That Care” was a vague message of “support” to troops fighting in a war of which public opinion was very much divided.
And also, by the time the song was recorded, the video made, and the single released in late February 1991, the war with Iraq was over after just six weeks. “Voices That Care” peaked at #11 on the pop chart.
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