Kanye West is in the news again for his antics, but this time, it’s not anything to do with Taylor Swift: the rapper/producer/singer/Tweeter is making headlines for his support of the current “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York. He’s not the first celebrity to lend their fame to a cause, though: here are five artists or groups who took time off from touring, shooting music videos, and diving in swimming pools full of cash to support a cause dear to their hearts.
5. Artists United Against Apartheid (Apartheid in South Africa)
Artists United Against Apartheid was a collective formed by Steven Van Zandt, well-known for his work with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Eventually, according to Wikipedia, its members included “Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run DMC, Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Clarence Clemons, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne and then-girlfriend Darryl Hannah, Peter Wolf, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Stiv Bators, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil-Scott Heron, Nona Hendryx, Lotti Golden, Lakshminarayana Shankar and Joey Ramone” (trust us, U2 will definitely be making another appearance on this list). The musicians recorded “Sun City” to urge those against apartheid to boycott the Sun City resort in South Africa, and vowed never to perform at the resort’s massive concert venue (when Apartheid went out the window, of course, so did the boycott–a good thing, too, since Sun City is a great place to visit).
4. Band Aid (Famine relief in Africa)
Band Aid, like Live Aid, was the brainchild of Irish singer Bob Geldof (of the Boomtown Rats). In 1984, he got together an all-star cast and recorded the hit single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Pretty much a who’s-who of 80s British pop, the song featured Boy George, Sting, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Status Quo, George Michael, U2 (again!), Bananarama, and a host of others. The single went to #1 for several weeks straight and led directly to #3 on our list…
3. USA for Africa (Famine relief in Africa)
USA for Africa, whose song “We Are the World” sounds cheesy now but sold over 20 million copies when it came out, was the creation of Harry Belafonte. Yes, the “banana boat / Day-O” guy. With a song penned by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie (both sitting comfortably at the top of radio charts in 1985) and artists including Kenny Rogers, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, and Bruce Springsteen, the song rocketed to the top of the charts and raised millions for charity.
2. Bono (Famine, AIDS, debt relief)
Whether it’s his band’s early involvement with Irish nationalism, his work for the United Nations, or his serving as a spokesperson for Product Red (remember, you buy a red T-shirt or an ipod and some of the money goes to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa?), Bono always seems to be trumpeting one cause or another. Whether or not you like U2’s music, it’s hard to fault him for trying.
1. Bob Geldof (everything)
Quick, name one song by the Boomtown Rats. Now name something Bob Geldof did. Live 8, Band Aid… the Irish singer has had an incredible career in philanthropy which has far surpassed any popularity he achieved with his band. The Queen didn’t give him a knighthood for writing “I Don’t Like Mondays,” that’s for certain. The dedication has paid off: besides the knighthood, Sir Bob now receives speaking fees of nearly $100,000 a pop, as well as luxury accommodation and first-class airfare. Still, you can’t deny the impact his work has had: over the past three decades, he’s raised millions of dollars, pounds, euros, and yen for AIDS and famine in the developing world.