By Carter B. Horsley
The Hope for Haiti Now two-hour telethon on
January 22, 2010 began as television's finest philanthropic event
with many magnificent performances, very poignant mini-documentaries,
and extremely elegant direction. It was marred only by the last
few performances that were below par and uninspired.
The telethon was organized by George Clooney
who brought along most of Hollywood's biggest stars such as Julia
Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman
to make fine pitches for donations at hopeforhaiti.com trying
to cope with the disastrous conditions in Haiti which was struck
by a 7.0 earthquake this month that devastated Port-au-Prince.
Anderson Cooper of CNN broadcast live from Port-Au-Prince interviewing
some individuals who had been rescued after 8 days beneath the
rubble. The phones were manned by the likes of Steven Spielberg,
Jack Nicholson and Stevie Wonder.
Mr. Clooney hopefully will be considered a
candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
The outstanding and extremely memorable performances
were by John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Christine Aguilera, Beyoncé,
and Justin Timberlake, Sting, Madonna, and Jennifer Hudson also
contributed fine sets.
Preliminary figures indicated
that the telethon raised $58 million.
The review in The New York Times of
the telethon January 23, 2009 by Alessandra Stanley missed the
point entirely, describing the event as "a study in carefully
muted star power" and adding that "more than 100 of
the most famous actors and music stars in the world went on stage
pretending to be nobody." "At times," she continued,
"the telethon was perhaps a little too self-consciously low-key
and somber. At the end of the night, even the Haitian-born singer
Wyclef Jean broke off his own mournful ode to his homeland and
said, 'Enough of this moping man, let's rebuild Haiti,' and he
and his band began rocking out." Wyclef Jean, unfortunately,
tied with Jay-Z for being the least talented and most self-centered
of the entertainers, and both, sadly, came at the end, marring
an otherwise extremely moving television event that was historic
for not bothering with an audience and for not pandering to the
lowest common denominator of pedestrian quality.
Sting sang "Driven To Tears" from
the 1980 Police album "Zenyatta Mondatta."
Stevie Wonder sang "A Time to Love"/"Bridge
Over Troubled Water." "A Time to Love" was the
title track to a 2005 album by Stevie Wonder. "Bridge Over
Troubled Water" is the title track to the 1970 album by Simon
The best other performances were: Bruce Springsteen
sang "We Shall Overcome," whose lyrics were derived
from a hymn written by the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley. John Legend
sang "Motherless Child." Christina Aguilera sang "Lift
Me Up," written by her collaborator, Linda Perry, who accompanied
her on piano. Beyoncé sang "Halo," from her 2009
album and was accompanied on piano by Chris Martin of Coldplay
and she changed its lyrics to include "Haiti, we can see
your halo, I pray you won't fade away." Justin Timberlake
sang Leonard Cohen's 1980 song, "Hallelujah," and was
accompanied by Matt Morris on guitar and vocals. Jennifer Hudson
sang Paul McCartney's 1969 song, "Let It Be."
Other good performances were by Mary J Blige,
Shakira, Taylor Swift and Sheryl Crow with Kid Rock and Keith
Several performances were bad and ill-conceived:
Jay-Z with U2's Bono and The Edge (featuring Rihanna) sang "Stranded
(Haiti Mon Amour)." Dave Matthews and Neil Young sang Hank
Williams's song "Alone & Forsaken." Wyclef Jean sang "Rivers of Babylon," which
had been written by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Melodians
in 1972 and was part of the soundtrack of the movie, The Harder
They Fall" and "Yéle."
The preliminary figure is a record for donations
made by the public through a disaster relief telethon, according
to a news release from telethon organizers.Additionally, the "Hope
for Haiti Now" album, a compilation of the night's musical
performances made available on Apple's iTunes. People will be
able to make donations to "Hope for Haiti" via phone,
Web, text messaging and regular mail for the next six months,
according to the news release. Proceeds will be split between
Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, Unicef and the
Yéle Haiti Foundatin and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
The telethon was carried live on many channels
and even with the very few disappointing performances it was one
of the most dignified and inspiring events in television history.