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Published: Friday, 1/22/2010

Stars unite to help Haiti in telethon

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Grim-faced celebrities and musicians with mournful tunes set the tone for the all-star, international “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, which featured two hours of desperate pleas for an even more-desperate nation. But it ended on a hopeful note, with a buoyant call for Haiti's revival by native son, Wyclef Jean.

“Enough of this moping man, let's rebuild Haiti, let's show 'em how we do it where we come from!” Jean shouted after singing the slow song “Rivers of Babylon,” with a Haitian flag around his neck.

He segued into the joyful tune “Yele” with an island beat, as musicians danced around him, singing the refrain: “Earthquake, we see the earth shake, but the soul of the Haitian people will never break!”

It was a stark contrast from the opening of the telecast: no words, simply photos of Haiti's tragic citizens as a backdrop, as Alicia Keys called for the help of angels in somber tune.

“Can you send me an angel to guide me?” Keys sang from her song “Prelude to a Kiss.” There was no audience or applause, allowing the moment to sink in for the millions expected to watch.

“The Haitian people need our help,” said George Clooney, who helped organize the two-hour telecast. “They need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that we still care.”

Then, after an impassioned plea from Halle Berry, Bruce Springsteen dedicated a song for Haiti — “We Shall Overcome.”

Since Haiti suffered the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12 that killed more than 200,000 people, the entertainment world has responded with an outpouring of charity, from million dollar donations to songs designed to raise money for relief.

On Friday night, those efforts became collective as the biggest celebrities from music, film, sports and even politics joined together for the telethon. Stars like Mel Gibson, Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts manned telephone lines while CNN's Anderson Cooper gave reports about the situation from Haiti. Heartbreaking video showed Haitians buried in rubble and badly injured, with tears and overwhelming sorrow etched on their faces.

Although the celebrity phone bank appeared to be continuously busy with donation calls, some of which were piped into the telecast, it was not immediately known how much money was raised by the show.

Most of the musical performances were downbeat, emotional songs. John Legend sang “I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” Kid Rock, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow sang “Lean On Me.” Beyonce, with Coldplay's Chris Martin backing her on piano, revised her hit “Halo” with new lyrics: “Haiti we can see your halo, we pray you won't fade away.”

Madonna provided one of the few upbeat moments with her choir-backed performance of “Like A Prayer,” while Sting's “Driven To Tears” was also spirited.

Jay-Z, Rihanna and U2's Bono and The Edge debuted a new song, “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour),” as Jay-Z rapped from London: “When the sky falls, and the earth quakes, we can gon' this back together, we won't break.”

Mickelson Civil, a Haitian filmmaker, fought back tears as he talked about relatives who died and those who are barely surviving: “The survivors shouldn't have to go hungry or be afraid now,” he said.

Jean made one of the more personal celebrity appeals of the evening, speaking of his experience after witnessing the torment of the nation first hand.

“I carried bodies of my people in the cemetery. They should have been walking,” he said. “Instead they were heavy in my arms. ... Right now we can see the second wave of the disaster coming ... We have to make sure that the second wave never makes it to Haiti.”

Jean ended his comments with a message directly to the Haitian people, in Creole. Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation is one of the groups that will benefit from the evening's donations; Jean had come under criticism for the spending practices of the foundation, and before the telethon Friday announced a new accounting firm to handle the group's finances after acknowledging past mistakes.

The telethon was broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti, and was featured on all the major networks and channels. It was also streamed live on sites like YouTube and MySpace.

Haitians were able to listen on Radio One Haiti.

Leonardo DiCaprio was among those celebrities who urged viewers to donate; on Thursday, he joined the list of previous celebrities donors with a $1 million gift to The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, one of several organizations that will benefit from the telethon.

John Mayer called in a $500,000 donation before the telethon began, according to a representative for MTV.

People were able to start donating even before the telethon at a newly established Web site, and also through text or telephone. Viewers will also be able to purchase performances from the evening on Saturday by way of iTunes for 99 cents, with those proceeds going to relief aid as well.

The telethon won't be the last major celebrity effort for Haiti; BET plans to hold its own all-star telethon on Feb. 5, with Diddy and Queen Latifah as hosts. It will also be aired on MTV and VH1.



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