Am I the only one disturbed by the celebrity media over-saturation to help Haiti while New Orleans is still rotting in the mold and muck of hurricane Katrina? Did I miss the breaking news that New Orleans was put back to average after years of malicious neglect? Where is the ongoing emergency celebrity effort in Louisiana?

Here is Randy Newman’s excellent — “Louisiana 1927” — where he sings about the turbid, historic, drowning of a beautiful city that should serve as a grave reminder for us all of the work that still must be done:

What’s lost on me in the Haiti effort is how the emergency of the international moment is meted out and met in the media.  New Orleans is dry old news while Haiti is fresh and bloody and exciting — that is, until the next earthquake in China or the next Ethiopian water urgency replaces it in our fleeting, public relations, memories.

What is it about the American need to intervene into international crises while we have similar harrowing matters of destruction right here at home?

Do we really believe we can heal the world with music and dancing while we just take it for granted that the suffering at home will heal itself because we’re such good can-do cheerleaders?

The most egregious effort in the Haiti melodrama is the re-recording of the classic song — “We Are the World” — because you can see it is nothing more than a blatant begging off of real talent for second chancers who do not respect the history or the heritage of the original song.

We know you cannot play the same moment twice, but that hasn’t stopped celebrity malfeasance in the past and it is certainly present once again:

What a cruel massacre of a sacred song!  The first rule of copying is to not destroy the intent of the original!  The song is unrecognizable and disavows Michael Jackson, its dead creator.

That video redefines “intentional vileness.”  Have you held a creepier moment in your eye than Janet Jackson singing next to her dead brother?  Ugh!

That sort of musical massacre hasn’t been seen or felt in such tragic form since Elton John took “Candle in the Wind” — honoring Marilyn Monroe in 1973 — and twisted a few lyrics to force the song to fit the killing of Princess Diana in 1988.

Are we so unoriginal and uninspired that Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana can’t each have their own song?

Are we so broken and bored that we have to reuse “We Are the World” to make it apply to Haiti?

Here’s the original “We are the World” from 1985 — and it’s a complete classic that should have remained pristine in its intent and untouched in its production:

The hallmark of any classic song is:  “Can I sing along?”  You can sing along with the original “We Are the World” — but you can’t with the horrible remake because of all the screaming.

The lesson from “Haiti: The Vile, Rewarmed, Version” is that celebrities should stay home and shut up.

If they truly want to help — let them send in their money anonymously
— and do their public works and private suffering first at home and then bid it all outward bound into the world.

Our first loyalty must always be to our immediate community that constructs us and hopes to make us whole again and when we trivialize who we are and what we stand for just to rip off an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, we all lose in the total failure of the misguided effort.

9 Comments

  1. Right on, David. I tried watching the remake and kept thinking — who is that? I went back to the original and knew everyone. I hope to spend some time in New Orleans doing volunteer work.

  2. Ooof! It’s a horrible remake, Gordon. They didn’t even try to change the video much — it’s a bunch of celebrities doing a poor imitation of the original excellence. It feels like a Saturday Night Live parody! Barbara Streisand? Really?! I guess this was her second grab at the original missed opportunity. Mary J. Blige can’t take off her sunglasses? Double Ugh.
    There are lots of things that can be done to help New Orleans. I’m just stunned how little national effort there is to care to set that national treasure right again.

  3. That’s a pretty commercial site, Gordon. I’m more interested in the percentage of homes destroyed and not replaced rather than the number of new restaurants.
    I wonder how many people left New Orleans never to return again?

  4. I was clueless about this horrendous remake and now I think sometimes ignorance is really bliss. What were they thinking? That they were creating another masterpiece??
    Public memory is short, and the media just plays along by feeding new scoops…while the real issue is lost in darkness…sad.

  5. I think you’re right — 25 years between the first and the remake — memories are short and so instead of doing something new and fresh, they chose to massacre the old in the quick expedition of trying to make the song “relevant” to a whole new generation. What a loss. The new is awful and the historic is irretrievably damaged.
    It looks like Vince Vaughn took the back row role of Dan Aykroyd in the remake as the “What am I doing here?” shtick. Just awful.

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