Saturday, January 23

Hope for Haiti Now music telethon: People around the world dig deep into their pockets and donate record $58 million

This is the first and probably last time I'll report on a telethon; I don't like them, particularly the ones in which lefty musicians who know nothing about the realities of trying to help the world's poorest get preachy. But George Clooney, who started the ball rolling for the Hope for Haiti Now telethon and has overseen it, is very hip. He was clearly aware of criticism of earlier aid concerts; last night's fundraiser, televised globally, reflected that.

No preaching, no grandstanding, no applause. Just two hours of mostly great music (okay, "great" depending on your taste in pop music) interspersed with brief, inspiring anecdotes about survivors of the Haiti earthquake and a few shots of Hollywood biggies at the phone banks chatting with donors.

In fact the telethon was maybe a little too low-key; a major 'selling point' for donating wasn't mentioned: 100 percent of the donations goes to aid agencies already working on the ground in Haiti. There are no 'back-end' fees being taken out of the proceeds; everyone connected with the effort waived them.

See the Hope for Haiti Now website for an extensive FAQ about how the fundraising was done and where funds are going; it's a top-drawer operation.

As to whether I actually watched the telethon, yes, and I even liked a few of the performances. However, I can't tell you the name of the performers I liked best; by a process of elimination I'm guessing it was Slash with a bunch of other musicians around him, although I've never seen Slash before -- if I heard him years ago with Guns 'N Roses, I wouldn't recognize him if I tripped over him.

They did their improvisation on New Orleans Creole-style funeral procession music. Just as with the street music it was heavy on brass instruments. I can't recall the lead singer's lyrics but the band had me on my feet dancing. To me it was the most authentic of all the musical tributes to Haiti, even the two done by Haitian performers, because it seemed so spontaneous. The performance reminded me of the joyful singing street processions in Port au Prince the day after the quake. Maybe that was the band's inspiration.

But the music mavens at The New York Times and Los Angeles Times didn't even mention the performance and I can't find discussion of it anywhere on the music blogosphere at this time, so what do I know?

CNN, 7:35 PM ET:
Los Angeles, California -- Friday night's [two hour] star-studded "Hope for Haiti" telethon has raised a record-breaking $58 million, with more donations continuing to pour in from around the world, the benefit's organizers announced Saturday.

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, was the No. 1 album in 18 countries Saturday. Sales figures for iTunes are still being calculated, and the preliminary figure of $58 million does not include donations from corporations or large private donors.

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.[...]

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