The Who‘s Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, One Direction‘s Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, Queen’s Brian May, Robbie Williams and Emeli Sande joined a 50-plus lineup to cover Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as part of Simon Cowell’s charity fundraiser for the victims of London’s Grenfell Tower fire. The fire tore through a housing tower last week, with 79 people confirmed or presumed dead..
The track opens with rapper Stormzy’s melancholy, half-whispered verse: “I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you/ I refuse to be silenced; I refuse to neglect you,” he rhymes. “That’s for every lost soul up in Grenfell, even though I never even met you/ For that could’ve been my mom’s house, that could’ve been my nephew/ Now that could have been me up there, waving my white plain T up there/ All my friends on the ground trying a see up there.”
From there, the song quickly cycles through its all-star crew of vocalists, including Jessie J, Jessie Ware, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora, Craig David, the Libertines’ Carl Barat and Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones, among many others. The modernized version of Simon & Garfunkel’s signature hit also incorporates electronic programming and London rap trio WSTRN’s guest verse before crescendoing with a gospel-styled choir.
Sales from the single, which is available to purchase on iTunes, will benefit those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire via the London Community Foundation. Cowell, the X-Factor and America’s Got Talent creator, created the Artists for Grenfell donation fund, to which he personally donated £100,000 ($126,850).
“I felt how everyone felt when they saw the news. I was angry, upset, thinking what the hell do you do?” Cowell told The Mirror. “It’s not far from where I live, so when I drove up there, and you saw this tower, it wasn’t great. And that’s when you decide that maybe we could do something to help. You kind of think, what can I do? Do you donate some money and I was thinking, well maybe we could do a little more than that and that’s how the record came about.”