Which music celebrities do you admire? The talented ones? The acts that have been around for years? The artists with multiple hits? Or struggling musicians who never “sold out?”
In my summer class, “Pop, Rock and Public Relations,” our discussions include some of the celebrities I admire most including those who’ve used their fame to bring attention to a cause, fight a disease, or help the less fortunate. There are countless of current examples: Lady Gaga highlights LGBT issues, Taylor Swift fights bullying and child abuse, and Bono raises political and environmental consciousness. These are just three of the hundreds of causes and celebrities who support them. Some may accuse them of doing so just to enhance their images; I say “so what?”
Celebrity concerts including “Live Aid,” “Farm Aid,” “The Concert for 9/11,” “12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief” have raised millions of dollars. But this wasn’t always the case. Musicians didn’t noticeably begin to speak out until the 1960s when they started to take very public stances on civil rights and the Vietnam war. Musicians’ activism took a different turn when former Beatle George Harrison used his mega-fame to raise money for those less fortunate. Just a year after the Fab Four’s 1970 break-up, Harrison was approached by his musical mentor Ravi Shankar who asked for his help to raise funds for millions of starving refugees in East Pakistan. He staged the “Concert for Bangladesh,” two performances at Madison Square Garden featuring music superstars ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, and other rock stars. The event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and became a model for future fundraisers featuring music’s biggest stars.
It’s admirable when celebrities use their stardom and perform on behalf of worthy causes. They understand the power of their fame and capitalize on it to truly help people. And if they’re sometimes accused of exploiting others’ tragedy for public relations purposes, I suggest it doesn’t matter if their efforts can truly make a difference to people, creatures and a planet in need. Your thoughts?