Musicians help victims of Katrina

September 02, 2005|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

With so much unimaginable destruction and tragedy in New Orleans, it was only a matter of time before the pop music industry sought a way to help, as it has done in response to Sept. 11 and the deadly tsunami that devastated parts of southern Asia in late 2004.

Tonight at 8, country heartthrob and Louisiana native Tim McGraw will co-headline A Concert for Hurricane Relief, an hourlong telethon on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. Also featuring Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis -- two major stars from the pop and jazz worlds who also happen to be from New Orleans -- the music special will be broadcast from NBC studios in New York. Viewers will be asked to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Yesterday, the Dave Matthews Band announced that it will add a fourth date to its Sept. 9-11 sellouts at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver, with proceeds from the Sept. 12 show to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims.

The renowned jam band also will join other major acts -- Gretchen Wilson, Green Day, Alicia Keys, John Mellencamp, Usher, Rob Thomas and David Banner -- for a Hurricane Katrina relief concert that will be staged simultaneously Sept. 10 in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Atlanta. More performers are expected to be added. And the concerts will air live on MTV, VH1 and CMT with opportunities for viewers to make call-in donations. Proceeds will be directed to the American Red Cross.

(Meanwhile, even the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association -- from 11 p.m. Sunday through 6:30 p.m. Monday on WNUV, Channel 54 -- will feature appeals for the hurricane relief effort. Lewis announced that MDA will donate $1 million to help hurricane victims. "We simply couldn't ignore the need to help," Lewis said.)

It seems especially poignant that musicians would unite to help raise funds for one of the most important musical cities in the world: New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, the city that nurtured Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, the Marsalis brothers, the Neville brothers, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and many others who have made unmatched contributions to pop, jazz, R&B and gospel.

In recent years, the Big Easy has been home to important music festivals. The Essence Music Festival at the Superdome, perhaps the country's biggest celebration of black popular music, has for the last decade brought millions to the city. Then there's the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Satchmo Summerfest, named after jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong.

Over the years, the city's legendary musicians have produced a distinct sound that has influenced players all over the world: a pungent gumbo of shuffling, African-inspired rhythms and Eastern European melodies with other key ingredients from the Caribbean. Among various musicians, New Orleans has long boasted a reputation as a well of inspiration.

It remains to be seen whether New Orleans will ever return to what it once was. But the city's significance in the world of music, its rich history of swinging rhythms and gorgeous melodies is indestructible.

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