Before Tuesday night, mass musician sing-a-longs were few and far between. Thankfully, BBC Music pulled out all the stops with their star-studded cover of the Beach Boys 1996 hit, “God Only Knows”. In light of the BBC Music launch, the network got everyone (and by everyone, I mean 29 world class musicians) to participate in the promo. With the likes of Elton John, Florence Welch, Pharrell, Lorde, Chris Martin, Dave Grohl and Sam Smith, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Much like its all-star predecessors, “God Only Knows” will contribute to a good cause. The song is set to be released as a single in order to raise money for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal. I have to say, I haven’t been one to seek out celebrity sing-a-longs, but there is something powerful about world class artists collaborating on a single project. I think we ought take a trip down memory lane and give a nod to all those great musical collabs from the past. There are more than you probably know:
1. We Are The World (1985)
“We Are The World” is the mother of all mass musician sing-a-longs. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are The World” was released in an effort to raise awareness and bring relief to the famine in Africa between 1983-1985. The song raised over $10 million in record sales from the United States alone. The song included performances from over 44 world class musicians—including Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Ray Charles—who operated under the name of USA for Africa. Fun fact: When the musicians entered the studio, they were met with a sign that read: “Check your egos at the door.”
2. That’s What Friends Are For (1985)
“We Are The World” wasn’t the only shining star of 1985. “That’s What Friends Are For,” sung Dionne Warwick. Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Elton John, raised over $3 million for AIDS research at the time. Anyone else remember hearing this song well into the ’90s as a kid? By the way, the song was first recorded by Rod Stewart for the 1982 film Night Shift. Anyone remember that?
3. What’s Going On (2001)
Covering a Marvin Gaye song is no small feat, but I suppose if there’s any way to go about it, it’s by infusing some major star power. “What’s Going On” was recorded in 2001 by multiple artists operating under the name of Artists Against AIDS Worldwide. The group produced multiple versions of the song, but many of us are familiar with the radio single version featuring Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, Fred Durst, Ja Rule, Nas, Jennifer Lopez and just about every other famous musician from the early millennium. This song was the basis of another mass collaboration in 1988.. That version, for Rock Aid Armenia, included Boy George and David Gilmour.
4. Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984)
Before “We Are The World”, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was our world’s first major attempt at raising awareness and relief for the famine in Ethiopia. Operating under the name of Band Aid, over 40 musicians (including Phil Collins, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Boy George, Sting and Bono) participated in the effort. The song sold over 1 million copies in its first week alone.
5. We Are The World 25 for Haiti (2010)
In honor of the 25th anniversary of “We Are The World,” “We Are The World 25 for Haiti” was released following the devastating Haitian earthquake. The song’s video, directed by Paul Haggis (of Crashfame), was premiered during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
6. Just Stand Up! (2008)
You don’t want to be touch out of tune with this group! Power women like Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Leona Lewis, Mariah Carey and Carrie Underwood performed “Just Stand Up!” during the “Stand Up To Cancer” telethon. Even though LeAnn Rimes, Sheryl Crow and Melissa Ethridge aren’t present for the live performance (above), they can be heard on the song’s studio version. Ladies for the win.
7. 30 Rock’s “He Needs a Kidney” (2012)
We can’t leave out this mock sing-a-long from 30 Rock’s glory days. The song, which included everyone from Elvis Costello and Mary J. Blige to Sheryl Crow and Michael McDonald, was supposed to help find Jack’s long-lost dad a kidney donor. The song was written by Tina Fey’s husband and show composer, Jeff Richmond, and when it was released on iTunes, all proceeds (for real) went to the National Kidney Foundation.