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.
The telecast opened with 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 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 and Reese Witherspoon 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.
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.
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.
Musician and producer Wyclef Jean, a native of Haiti, 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.