Photo: MTV Hope for Haiti Now via Getty Images:
Friday, January 22, 2009, dozens of big-name stars from Springsteen to Madonna are joining forces to help raise money for relief work in Haiti. Rolling Stone will be following all the musical action as it happens right here. Watch some of the best performances, and in addition, take an opportunity to flip through music biz vet Jeff Antebi’s photos from Haiti and our other coverage on the industry’s response to the horrific earthquake:
8:00 p.m.: Alicia Keys opens the telecast alone at a grand piano singing “Prelude to a Kiss” from As I Am.
8:04 p.m.: George Clooney, the telethon’s organizer, explains why this benefit is so important while the camera pans past the bank of all-star phone operations.
8:07 p.m.: All four members of Coldplay are strumming away to a rendition of “A Message” live in London.
8:13 p.m.: “A small prayer for Haiti,” says Bruce Springsteen before starting an acoustic version of “We Shall Overcome.”
8:16 p.m.: We spy Ringo Starr in the phone bank!
8:20 p.m.: Stevie Wonder is at the piano performing an excellent medley of “A Time to Love” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with a choir.
8:24 p.m.: Wyclef Jean mournfully describes the scene he encountered in his homeland in the days following the earthquake.
8:25 p.m.: Shakira offers a stirring, stripped-down version of the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” backed by the Roots.
8:34 p.m.: John Legend takes the piano for traditional “Motherless Child,” and really digs into the bridge.
8:39 p.m.: Mary J. Blige and her high hair are putting a soulful spin on “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a 19th century song that’s been covered by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
8:44 p.m.: Another pan of the star-bank reveals LL Cool J, Randy Jackson and Common manning the phones.
8:47 p.m.: Taylor Swift (safe from Kanye West, who will not be appearing on the telethon) gently strums “Breathless” by Better Than Ezra.
8:53 p.m.: There’s no shortage of melisma during Christina Aguilera’s performance — the debut of a new song that features the lyrics “If you lift me up.”
9:01 p.m.: A very buff-looking Sting picks up an acoustic guitar for a jaunty, jazzy rendition of his classic “Driven to Tears,” backed by the Roots, who seem to be the house band in this New York studio (a role they’re clearly comfortable with thanks in part to their day job on Jimmy Fallon’s show).
9:06 p.m.: Beyoncé teams up with Chris Martin (on piano) for a powerful version of her I Am … Sasha Fierce ballad “Halo,” changing the lyric to “Haiti I can see your halo” live from London.
9:13 p.m.: Sheryl Crow is flanked by Kid Rock and Keith Urban for an acoustic “Lean on Me.” All the artists have really been staying on message with their selections tonight.
9:21 p.m.: Madonna, dressed in a tight black leather jacket, is leading a choir in an emotional acoustic version of “Like a Prayer” from the New York studio. Paring the song down brings out its defiantly uplifting core.
9:30 p.m.: Justin Timberlake has settled in at the piano for a slow, shuffling rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (a song quite appropriate for the occasion, though Cohen has called for a brief pause in covers of his tune). He’s accompanied by Matt Morris, who Timberlake signed to his own label.HT
9:34 p.m.: Taylor Swift takes a phone call!
9:36 p.m.: Ringo Starr is answering phones, and now the Beatles are in the building: Jennifer Hudson is beautifully embellishing “Let It Be” (backed by the Roots). Is this the right pick, or would you rather have heard “Hey Jude” or “All You Need Is Love”? “With a Little Help From My Friends” (with Ringo)?
9:42 p.m.: Haitian artist Emeline Michel has taken the stage, putting a quite unique spin on Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time).
9:48 p.m.: The biggest collaboration of them all has arrived: Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono and the Edge singing the Swizz Beatz-produced “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour).” For the story behind the track, click here. Is it us, or is the mix slightly off? Getting lots of Rihanna, just a bit of Bono.
9:51 p.m.: Stevie Wonder takes a call! “A whole lot of littles make a whole lot of lots,” he tells his caller.
9:53 p.m.: Dave Matthews and Neil Young’s acoustic selection is perhaps the most mournful track of the night, Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken.”
9:58 p.m.: Yéle Haiti founder Wyclef Jean brightens the mood a bit with “Rivers of Babylon,” another track from the soundtrack to The Harder They Come (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). “Let’s rebuild Haiti, man,” he yells as the song jumps into a funky breakdown and he shouts out Anderson Cooper.