Various Artists: What’s Going On: To Benefit the United Way’s September 11th Fund and Artist

Various Artists
What's Going On: to Benefit the United Way's September 11th Fund and Artists Against Aids Worldwide

A tribute album is something that continues to intrigue the masses. Remakes of old songs, new and unexpected artists get to try out their styles to classics (think Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, Burt Bacharach) and the audience gets a new sound put to their comfort zone listening pleasure. A benefit album (sometimes referred to as a charity single) does much the same but the artists gather for a cause and usually proceeds from sales of the CD go directly to the cause. This has been done for years (think Red, Hot & . . . , Live Aid, Farm Aid) and has been proven to raise a lot of money.

Here are two extremely important causes: AIDS and the events of September 11th. These seem to be as dissimilar in relativity as Lung Cancer and the United Nations. The only reason it seems, according to the CD cover, is a collection of artists came together to record a song “in an effort to eliminate AIDS in Africa where the epidemic is destroying an entire continent. In the wake of the tragic attacks on September 11, we feel compelled to recognize the victims of more than 60 nations and their loved ones as well”. This is wonderful, but misplaced. Since September 11th, every musician, band, actor, singer, artist, mayor, politician and everyday folk has come out to show support for the victims of this tragedy. Never has a cause been more rallied for and supported. However, AIDS is still prevalent and yet, there is not the same up in arms, we’re not going to stand for this anymore militancy. There hasn’t been for years. This is why the two causes should not have been combined. There are enough artists out there that surely a second CD could have been made. But this is the music industry and the people involved were just trying to help in anyway they could. And they have.

Where else would you be able to get this many interesting artists to collaborate? From the pop sounds of Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync, and Britney Spears to the Alternative edginess of Fred Durst, Gwen Stefani, Michael Stipe, and Scott Weiland to the R&B flava of Mary J. Blige, Jermaine Dupri, and Nas, all the record company’s bases are covered. There is literally something for everyone.

The artists re-recorded Marvin Gaye’s song “What’s Going On” because it “is a question everyone is asking. Our answer is to unite, to create a global community based on safety, compassion and healing. It is also a call to action.” Not to mention it was and still is a popular song and the lyrics lend itself to any cause and remain timeless:

“. . . for only love can conquer hate”

“Barricades can’t block our way / Don’t punish me with Brutality”

There are nine versions on the CD and you are sure to find at least two that you like. There is the original version that is currently getting the most radio play, but it is also the most like the original Marvin version (hence the reason it’s getting so much air play). The standout versions are Moby’s, which includes his trademark spoken words inserts and some great vocals (although they are not attributed in the liner notes so it could be Beyonce or Alicia Keyes; Fred Durst’s Reality Check Mix, which features Scott Weiland, Perry Farrell and Elijah Blue; and Dupri’s R&B Mix which features added lyrics by the artists, such as Nas’

“I can fell what was bothering Marvin / Why his words forever remain / Dealing with these modern day problems / ‘Cause of ignorance surrounding me and my constituents / Too many infected / Too many lives diminishing / Nobody say Protestants, Jews, Blacks, and Whites / Latinos and Asians / Pray Together / Less fight / We better unite/As genocide chemical war / And the rich and the poor / Know that God delivers a cure”.

The sweetest moments are upon hearing Marvin’s daughter, Nona sing:

“Oh my father, father”

Reasons to buy this CD? It not only goes to one good cause, but two. If you like the song, you will love the new versions. You get to hear a bevy of artists that normally, you might not get a chance to listen to. You get to hear Marvin’s daughter croon and for a man that did not have an easy life, was shot and killed by his father while having an argument, it is a nice way to keep his words living on.

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