“…and the dreams that we dare to dream really do come true”
In 1985 I was sitting in a tiny studio apartment in North London when I turned on the television to see the biggest music stars of the day assembling at Abbey Road Studios. They were coming together to sing the charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” organized by Bob Geldof. This all star cast formed Band-Aid which was the forerunner of Live Aid and “We Are The World.”
I was just down the road, yet a million miles away. I felt like Cinderella not invited to the ball. My group was failing, I was broke and at any moment could be out on the street. The band I had toured with was being dropped by our record label EMI, and they used my credit card to pay for their European tour, leaving me in debt.
Yet as I watched the tele I saw Bono, Sting, George Michael, Phil Collins, Boy George and many others smile for the cameras, wave to the crowds gathered out front, and step inside the studio to sing and raise awareness and funds for Africa.
I wondered to myself whilst feeling like a failure if I would ever become successful enough to be one of the cool kids? Not for the glamour or attention but for the soul purpose of using one’s life to make a difference in the lives of others? To give back. Never underestimate the POWER of a single thought.
What a difference 25 years can make. Fast forward to 2010. I was at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles with Alan Jardine of The Beach Boys. We were attending various events and the Grammys themselves. A rumor started to spread about Quincy Jones doing a remake of the iconic 1985 “We Are The World” to raise money and awareness for the Caribbean island of Haiti, which was leveled in a devastating Earthquake at the time. It was a tragedy beyond words in one of the poorest countries on Earth; even the Presidential Palace of Haiti had crumbled.
The day after The Grammy awards on February 1st, stars were to gather at the Henson sound stage with Quincy Jones. I wasn’t on the list. Yet at that point in my career I no longer wanted to be anywhere I didn’t belong, and didn’t want to crash any parties I wasn’t directly invited to.
Jardine told me, “Brian ( Wilson) and I are not on the list either. I’m just gunna show up and say let us in, were the Beach Boys and we’ve come to sing! Let’s see what they say?” He told me if he didn’t answer his phone that afternoon that they got in and were singing, but if he did answer his phone it meant that they were turned away at the door, and he and his wife Mary Ann were heading home.
I went to visit a friend that day, avoiding the itch to go. I called Al who didn’t answer. Late in the day as I was driving back to my hotel I decided to go past the studio just out of curiosity. To look and see what was happening.
I saw the big white satellite broadcast trucks, the police barricades and crowds of people. Like poison ivy I simply couldn’t resist the urge any longer. I had to scratch. I parked, approached the front door and said, “I’m here to visit Al Jardine of The Beach Boys.” To my surprise they didn’t ask if my name was on a list, they simply said “go around back to the performers entrance.”
I went around back and there was nothing happening. A few check in people sitting at a folding table looking bored as heck as check in was eight hours earlier. I approached and honestly said, “Hey I am meeting Beach Boy Al Jardine here. I’m not on the list but he told me to come by.” They sized me up, kinda like a horse owner looks over a racehorse when considering a purchase. I was chewing gum. The person behind the folding table with folders of unused entry passes from artists who failed to show up, asked me for a piece of chewing gum. I gladly obliged seeing what flimsy ground I was on in the situation.
Then he reached into an envelope and pulled out a purple shiny wristband. He put it on my wrist loosely and pointed out where I should go once inside. A piece of gum trade for an all-access pass. I walked in and within seconds I was looking thru a window at a large choir assembled of many of the biggest music and film stars of 2010 with Lionel Richie conducting the chorus.
“There’s a choice were making, were saving our own lives, we can make a brighter day just you and I” cut….next take…cut. Eventually Alan noticed me through the glass and waved for me to come in. Respectfully, I entered the room. It was only the singers and the working personnel. No guests were allowed in the room. I was an exception.
I stood in back watching as they rolled and filmed take after take. With each cut some celebrity would hop out of formation and ask me to take a picture with someone else singing. I was so awed by the wonderful feeling of love in the room.
Quincy & director Paul Haggis the filmmaker kept pulling stars out of the group to film and record solo spots and soon the ranks had thinned. They looked around the room and asked if anyone in the room could sing? I raised my hand.
Suddenly, I found myself in the chorus singing, “We are the world, we are the children.” I was looking around at all the famous faces- Al and Brian, The Beebs, Tony Bennett, Randy Jackson, Jeff Bridges, etc.
It was only later, much later after the high of this unexpected and exhilarating experience that I realized the message in a bottle moment that just happened.
All those years ago in 1985, lonely and sad in that little bedsit studio apartment I dreamed one day of making a difference. Of being important enough to be valued for my contribution to helping others. On February 1st, 2010 that dream came true. Like a message in a bottle it drifted across the seas of time, and landed on the shores of Los Angeles 25 years later.
Never underestimate the power of a single thought. Worlds move on such energy. Thoughts and words have formative power. I didn’t get credit in the final filming as I had come late and just jumped in, and the whole production of the song eventually bombed. People hated it, and felt the original with Michael Jackson performing was the one and only definitive version. The comments on iTunes were brutal even though the intentions were to save lives.
Yet- I was there. I sang. I felt it, I lived it. Believe in your dreams. Dreams are like a seed under the cold soil of winter which one day may feel the warmth of the spring air and slowly make their way up through the ground to face the golden sun.