Well, Michael Jackson's good intentions have been superseded. On Saturday afternoon in New York veteran record producer Nile Rodgers is going to record a bunch of stars singing his hit song, "We Are Family." On Sunday, Rodgers will record a second group of stars in Los Angeles.
The exciting idea, to raise money for World Trade Center victims and their families, could wind up being the actual equivalent to "We Are the World."
Among the stars who've already committed to Rodgers, who created the group Chic in the 1970s, are Diana Ross, Sister Sledge (who had the original hit), Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Sugar Ray, Mick Jones of Foreigner, Roberta Flack, Sheryl Crow, Fred Schneider of the B-52s, Eartha Kitt, Kevin Bacon, Patti Smyth and John McEnroe, Run-D.M.C., and members of the Knicks. Sources also tell me that Elton John, Lenny Kravitz and Steven Tyler are among those who are interested but still uncommitted.
In Los Angeles, Seal, Sophie B. Hawkins, Ice Cube, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty, and Elizabeth Taylor are close to being booked.
Additionally, there's a rumor that former President Bill Clinton will participate in the project.
Rodgers wrote "We Are Family" with his late partner, Bernard Edwards, more than 20 years ago. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison he told Rodgers that his guards often were caught humming the song. Mandela, Rodgers says, was excited because it meant his racist guards were singing a song performed by black women. It had to be a sign that apartheid was coming to an end.
Rodgers' significant other, Nancy Hunt, got the idea for doing "We Are Family," she says, the other night. "I literally woke up in the middle of the night and it dawned on me. Niles wrote the song. He should put it together."
In an e-mail sent out by Rodgers — whose friend Berry Berenson perished in one of the planes last Tuesday — to a startlingly A-list set of celebrities today, the producer/writer said: "I am feeling very afraid. I get nervous when the dominant emotion around me is free-floating fear — as it can get very ugly. I like to believe in hope. Nothing lifts the spirit like song. Politicians and tacticians have known this since the beginning of time. In my own humble way I am giving the greatest gift I have: the gift of music. The proceeds of the new recording will go to various charities to benefit those who need our help. I am asking all of you to be a part of this recording. Can we organize for peace half as efficiently as others do for hate?"
On a personal note, I've known Nile Rodgers for more than 15 years and I'm very excited about this project. Hopefully, other celebrities will join the cause and other singers too. All in all, a great idea. Bravo!
Friday night's four-network live TV fundraiser, reported here last night, is shaping up with an all-star roster too. Announced so far: Bon Jovi, Amy Brenneman, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, the Dixie Chicks, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Calista Flockhart, Dennis Franz, Kelsey Grammer, Tom Hanks, Faith Hill, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Conan O'Brien, Tom Petty, Ray Romano, Julia Roberts, Paul Simon, Will Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Sela Ward, Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Young.
Contrary to reports though, Oprah Winfrey is so far not part of this project. And you can scratch Madonna's name too. "It's a logistics problem," reports an insider.
The show, called "America: A Tribute to Heroes," will not have a host but it will have "a beginning, middle and end," according to my sources.
Producer Joel Gallen has also talked to publicists for Ben Stiller, star of Gallen's executive-produced Zoolander, which premieres at the end of this month.
According to my source, other networks may be joining in besides Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS. The WB Network doesn't broadcast after 10 p.m., but they're considering ways to be part of the show. And there's a chance that HBO will throw in too. So far no word at all from Showtime Networks, MTV or VH-1, all part of CBS' extended family.
Like the aforementioned Nile Rodgers project, the Gallen show is all being done for free. So much so that Barbara Brogliatti, director of all corporate PR at Warner Bros., is doing the press for Gallen gratis.
As I reported in this space earlier on Tuesday, the show will be done without an audience and without press coverage. The venues are "undisclosed locations" in New York and Hollywood.
Yes, if you were listening to Regis Philbin on Dave Letterman's show the other night, this was an exchange. Dave: "What do you hear from Kathie Lee?" Reege: "We should send her over there [to Afghanistan]??"
Funny though this might be, rest assured that Reege did not mean this as a put down. Rather, he was referring to the way Kathie Lee was always capable of taking charge of bad situations like sweatshops and adultery and making it all better overnight.
At least, that's what I think he meant.
Michael Stipe, lead singer for R.E.M., did his Boy Scout best last Tuesday, according to sources.
Stipe has just bought an apartment near the World Trade Center. On Tuesday he came across a frantic neighbor who was having trouble getting in touch with her parents by phone. She didn't recognize Stipe right away, but gave him the number and asked if he'd try it from his cell phone.
Later that night when she at last reached her folks, the first thing they said was: "This nice young man named Michael called and told us you were OK ..."
In the middle of all this disastrous situation, not many people are buying new albums. Last week, Mariah Carey released her Glitter soundtrack, and Babyface put out Face 2 Face, on Arista. Could their timing have been any worse?
But here's the upside: Babyface's album is just terrific, a solid R&B effort that I've been listening to in my car for weeks. The singer-writer-producer, whose real name is Kenny Edmonds, has a bunch of hit singles on this album including the melodramatic ballad "What If" and the very hummable "Wish You Was My Girl." Edmonds has made a very 70s Stevie Wonder-sounding record, and that, my friends, is a good thing.
I don't know if Face 2 Face will pull Arista out of the doldrums, but it sure made me feel better this week. With new CDs by Nick Lowe, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello (reissues), Glen Tilbrook, and Grant Lee Phillips, we're getting a bumper crop of good stuff this fall.
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