In the days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina, musicians have raised their voices and opened their wallets to help survivors of the devastated Gulf Coast region. “We, as musicians, get to be the medicine men for a minute,” says John Mayer, who performed “Heart So Heavy” — a blues number he wrote in the wake of Katrina — at the MTV Networks’ ReAct Now: Music + Relief telethon on September 10th. “I sit as a spectator and watch the TV as these horrible things unfold, but I can stand as a musician, offer my observations and sing through the pain.”
Musicians reacted quickly. Before President Bush made his first flyby over the Delta, New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr. was in the Superdome consoling evacuees. Before the National Guard was summoned to New Orleans, Master P, a Louisiana native, had set up Team Rescue, an organization providing basic supplies for displaced families. And before Congress had appropriated relief funds, Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs had pledged $1 million in assistance to the American Red Cross.
In addition to the long list of benefit concerts — including Tuesday’s star-studded shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden — here is a list of some of the artists who have chosen to take action:
The Rolling Stones donated $1 million to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. “We wanted to reach out and offer our help to those whose lives have been devastated by Katrina,” the band said in a statement. “We hope that our gift will provide vital services and necessities to the families affected, to help them rebuild their lives.”
Paul Simon visited Biloxi, Mississippi, on September 5th to launch Operation Assist, an organization that provides medical aid to those affected by the hurricane. “I’m not down here as a songwriter,” Simon said, “but as someone to call attention to [the tragedy], particularly in the smallest communities.”
Dave Matthews Band donated about $1.5 million from their September 12th concert at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater to the American Red Cross. “We thought, ‘We wanna do something, but what can we do?'” says DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley. “A benefit show tacked onto the end of the tour was the obvious answer.”
Eminem gave $200,000 to the American Red Cross through his label Shady Records. “I don’t have any family down there, but you can just watch the news and see the pain people are going through,” he said.
Jay-Z and Diddy donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. “When I turn on CNN, I see a lot of black people on the streets,” Jay-Z said. “I know it’s other people, too. But those projects have been hit hard.”
T.I. helped raise $263,000 during a seven-hour radio special on Atlanta’s V-103 FM, including $50,000 of the Atlanta rapper’s own money. “You can’t walk around and call yourself the King of the South if you’re not going to be willing to step up and help somebody when it’s time,” he says.
The Cash Money Millionaires (Birdman, Lil’ Wayne) and No Limit Soldiers (Master P, Silkk the Shocker, Lil’ Romeo) will join forces for a ten-city tour kicking off in early October to raise money for hurricane victims.
Farm Aid donated $30,000 to families affected by the tragedy. “This is a moment when each of us can take stock of what we can offer to everyone affected by this catastrophe,” said Farm Aid president Willie Nelson. “A disaster of this magnitude can be a breaking point for many Southern family farms.”
Macy Gray spent Labor Day weekend aiding families at the Houston Astrodome. “It’s not always about money,” she says. “Those people really need more than money. They have lost so much, and a lot of them are homeless in cities that they don’t know. My heart just really went out to those people.”
The String Cheese Incident donated four of their touring trucks to carry supplies to hurricane victims in Houston. “We saw this as a way to take things into our own hands and make an immediate impact,” says bassist Keith Moseley.
3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson, whose Mississippi home was nearly destroyed, is using his Better Life Foundation children’s charity to get supplies to people who are stranded. The foundation bought a firetruck for the town of Waveland, Mississippi, and collected hundreds of gallons of water for residents. “I’ve never been faced with this kind of challenge,” Henderson says. “I wish we could do more.”
Hilary Duff donated $200,000 to the American Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest.
Jada Pinkett Smith visited with refugees at the Astrodome.
Celine Dion gave $1 million to relief efforts and will donate proceeds from her Las Vegas show.
Lisa Marie Presley volunteered at a Memphis shelter.
Ricky Martin has teamed up with Banco Popular and the Salvation Army for a collection drive to help victims of Katrina. Banco Popular branches are collecting diapers, clothes and educational toys, to be distributed by the Salvation Army to relief centers in Texas and areas affected by the hurricane.
Rapper Young Jeezy has opened his Atlanta mansion to Katrina disaster victims in need of shelter.
Jack Johnson has pledged a total of $65,000 to Hurricane Katrina relief, drawn from proceeds from recent and upcoming shows. The singer-songwriter will also auction off tickets to upcoming concerts in support of the cause.
The Game is donating his 2005 Bentley Continental GT, worth more than $250,000, to Morgan Freeman’s Charity Folks auction to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
Prince has released two new tracks, “SST” and “Brand New Orleans,” through npgmusicclub.com and iTunes to raise money for Katrina relief.
Louisiana native Britney Spears is donating two grants from her foundation to aid in relief efforts. The first will go to Habitat for Humanity’s project Operation Home Delivery, a long-term rebuilding plan for families affected by the disaster. The second will provide the East Baton Rouge School System, which has taken in nearly 7,000 displaced New Orleans students, with supplies, transportation and other materials.