Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Artists United Against Apartheid - Sun City

The political music and concert trend of the 1980's was somewhat weird.  The whole thing started with Bob Geldof's Band Aid project "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in late 1984.  In 1985, seemingly every musician on the planet was recording an all star song or appearing at a concert.  USA for Africa, Live Aid, Farm Aid, Hear 'n Aid (yes, I kid you not, there was a heavy metal charity project) all took place within 12 months of Band Aid.

Still, Artists United Against Apartheid seemed to be a bit different.  First, it was much more blatantly political (younger readers can look up apartheid here). and second, it seemed to be more genuine.  The project was organized by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band and included Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bono, Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Keith Richards, Run-D.M.C., Clarence Clemons, Hall and Oates, and Jackson Browne among others.

The point of the video was twofold:  to raise awareness of apartheid, and to pressure artists who were considering performing at Sun City, thus pressuring the South African regime.  This was not a totally trivial issue, as performers such as Frank Sinatra, Queen, Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Julio Iglesias, The O'Jays, Linda Ronstadt, Cliff Richard, Johnny Mathis, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick and Laura Branigan had performed at the casino.

While an early version of the song named names, it was decided to take a more subtle route in the end.  In spite of this, "Sun City" was not a huge success -- the single hit #38, while the album peaked at #31.  It is likely that the blatant political message of the song, combined with the rap elements made this a little bit of a tough sell.  Still, the project did generate a fair amount of publicity, and it also raised money for anti-apartheid causes.  Overall, I think it was a solid success for Little Steven.  And this story has a happy ending, as South Africa is now a free and democratic country in the community of nations.

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone ranked the Sun City album as the 100th greatest LP of the 1980's.

1 comment:

  1. Kinda Funny?
    When Just See How Many Faces You Can Recgonize
    Yet The Effort Was Futal
    Gotta Love The 80'z