Musicians played a key role in the nation’s healing process throughout the weekend, lending their voices and talents to a variety of events as people continued to work toward returning to normalcy.
Friday night, as the New York Mets returned to the field for the first home baseball game in New York since terrorist acts took down the World Trade Center, a police pipe and drum band led an emotional tribute to the city’s fallen heroes, followed by Diana Ross singing “God Bless America.” Things turned somewhat more jubilant during the traditional seventh-inning stretch, when Liza Minnelli belted out “New York, New York” for the hometown crowd.
Shortly after the start of the game, the unprecedented cooperative, commercial-free telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes” went live. Produced by the four largest broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC — the two-hour-plus show featured 21 musical performances from somber sound stages in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
More than 200 networks worldwide and radio stations in more than 150 countries relayed emotional performances by the likes of Neil Young, who covered John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and on organ accompanied Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready on that band’s “Long Road.” A host of others performed, including Alicia Keys, Sting, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, and Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Wes Borland, who were joined by the Goo Goo Dolls’ Johnny Rzeznik for an acoustic rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
Through its toll-free phone number — answered for a time by celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Andy Garcia, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Meg Ryan, Sylvester Stallone, Sally Field, and Brad Pitt — and its still-operating official Web site, the tribute raised more than $110 million before the West Coast rebroadcast, according to reports. Organizers are expected to announce totals sometime today.
As National Football League play resumed in stadiums around the country yesterday (Sept. 23), stirring renditions of the National Anthem were preceded by separate taped messages from New York governor George Pataki and mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as well as taped musical performances. “America the Beautiful” was performed by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora (who also participated in the “Tribute to Heroes” broadcast), joined by members of the New York fire and police departments. Mary J. Blige and Lionel Richie performed the song at a New York waterfront location backed by the Boys Choir of Harlem. Similar festivities are expected prior to tonight’s “Monday Night Football” broadcast on ABC featuring the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.
Sunday afternoon also saw James Earl Jones and Oprah Winfrey host “A Prayer For America,” a memorial service at Yankee Stadium in New York. The event, open mostly to families of the victims, featured performances by Bette Midler and country singer Lee Greenwood, who sung “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “God Bless the U.S.A.,” respectively.
Also Sunday, Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., which once offered spectacular views of the World Trade Center from across New York Harbor, hosted a memorial. Thousands gathered to hear Ray Charles play his rendition of “America the Beautiful,” as well as performances by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the American Boys Choir of Princeton (N.J.).