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UPDATED: Stars unite to help Haiti in telethon

Was broadcast worldwide on multiple networks and channels

Posted: January 21, 2010 1:49 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2010 10:45 p.m.

In this image released by Hope for Haiti Now, John Legend performs at the "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief," on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 in Los Angeles.

 
NEW YORK (AP) -- Though the all-star telethon was titled "Hope for Haiti Now," for most of its two hours, it was filled with tear-jerking, depressing moments, from mournful songs and grim-faced pleas from celebrities to the suffering faces of the quake-battered victims themselves.

It took Haiti's own native son to lift Friday evening's despairing tone to one of hope and even revival as the two-hour broadcast came to a close.

"Enough of this moping, man, let's rebuild Haiti, let's show 'em how we do it where we come from!" Wyclef Jean, the singer and producer, shouted after singing the downbeat "Rivers of Babylon," with a Haitian flag around his neck.

He segued into the joyful tune "Yele" with an island beat, as musicians danced around him, singing the refrain: "Earthquake, we see the earth shake, but the soul of the Haitian people will never break!"

Jean showcased the resilient spirit of a nation in the midst of catastrophe. On Jan. 12, a powerful earthquake struck the already impoverished country, killing an estimated 200,000 people, displacing many more and reducing much of Haiti to ruins.

The telethon, shown on all the major networks and streamed live on many Web sites, was quickly put together by George Clooney and MTV Networks, along with the help of others, to raise millions of dollars for the Caribbean country.

The list of participating celebrities rivaled any top awards show: Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, former President Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Halle Berry, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, Dave Matthews, Neil Young, Julia Roberts and many more.

Luminaries like Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Ringo Starr and Reese Witherspoon worked the phone banks, talking to donors.

"Hey, Steven Spielberg, it's really cool to talk to you," one woman caller said to the Academy Award-winning filmmaker.

John Mayer called in a $500,000 donation before the telethon began, according to a representative for MTV. Officials did not have an immediate total for the relief funds raised by the telethon.

Some stars like Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood recounted tragic moments from the quake. They paid tribute to the approximately 70 Port-Au-Prince-based U.N. workers killed in the quake, and the scores of workers and volunteers from nonprofit organizations that had already been helping in Haiti before the disaster.

Denzel Washington offered inspirational words about the positive impact people can make with their donations.

Most of the musical performances were downcast, 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."

Another highlight was Sting's reggae-jazz reading of The Police hit "Driven to Tears," backed by The Roots.

Jay-Z, Rihanna and U2's Bono and The Edge debuted a new song, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)," as Jay-Z rapped from London: "When the sky falls, and the earth quakes, we gon' put this back together, we won't break."

The telethon was broadcast live from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti, where CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed quake victims and anchored news clips of the tragedy.

Haitians were able to listen on Radio One Haiti.

A crowd made up mostly of Haiti's wealthier elite gathered Friday night at Break Time restaurant, one of the few still open in Port-au-Prince, and one of the only places residents could watch the telethon.

Owner Patrick Alexis said he enjoyed seeing the celebrities but was skeptical the money would get to people who need it.

"It's easy to do a telethon on behalf of the Haitian people, but who will really get the money? I know my country, I know my people, I know the leaders," he said.

Rabbel Bertrand, 16, who was heading to New Jersey to because his school collapsed, was surprised by the attention on his country.

"I didn't realize all those celebrities knew Haiti. When you talk about Haiti, people usually just talk about the bad things," Bertrand said.

Viewers can purchase performances from the evening on Saturday by way of iTunes for 99 cents, with those proceeds going to relief aid as well.

Friday night's telethon won't be the last major celebrity effort for Haiti; BET plans to hold its own all-star telethon on Friday, Feb. 5, with Diddy and Queen Latifah as hosts. It will also be aired on MTV and VH1.

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Associated Press Writer Mike Melia in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.


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UPDATED 2 p.m. Friday:
NEW YORK (AP) - Beyonce, Madonna and Rihanna have been added as musical performers to Friday's multi-network "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, joining such heavyweights as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay and Keith Urban.

Among the celebrity participants are former President Bill Clinton, Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, , Ellen DeGeneres, Halle Berry, Muhammad Ali, Clint Eastwood and Reese Witherspoon.

The two-hour telethon will be shown on all the major networks and a host of other channels starting at 5 p.m. Pacific time. It will be broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed after a powerful earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, devastating the nation. The telethon is designed to raise funds for immediate relief and rebuilding.

"It's a big world out there, and we all have a lot of responsibility to look out for people who can't look out for themselves," telethon organizer George Clooney said in an MTV interview that aired Thursday night. "So what we can do is first and foremost, raise money. Period. That's it ...

"If I thought we could all pick up shovels and go in there and help without being in the way, I think a lot of people would do that," said Clooney, who will co-host the telethon with musician Wyclef Jean.

Jean, a Haitian native, is also among the performers and will lead the New York broadcast. CNN's Anderson Cooper will add reports from Haiti.

A statement released Thursday said Beyonce would perform from London, and Madonna from New York City.

Rihanna says she will perform a new song called "Stranded" with rapper Jay-Z and U2's The Edge and Bono on the telethon in London.

During the taping of a Norwegian talk show in Oslo on Thursday, the R&B superstar said she feels drawn to the cause because of Haiti's proximity to her home country of Barbados.

"In the Caribbean, we think of ourselves as one big family, one country," Rihanna told the host of the show, Fredrik Skavlan. "We're all together. We all represent each other."

She said she felt "great sadness" when thinking about the humanitarian disaster that struck Haiti following the earthquake.

"It's like it happened to Barbados," she said.

People can begin donating even before the start of the 8 p.m. EST concert via phone and text.

Starting Saturday, viewers can also download musical performances from the show via iTunes for 99 cents. Those profits will also be donated to Haiti relief.

Also Thursday, DiCaprio announced he was donating $1 million to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, the relief effort led by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and one of the organizations benefiting from the telethon.

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