The following article appeared in the Bangor Daily News on March 12, 2007. The article was written by Edna Gundersen.
Instant Karma, an all-star album benefiting Amnesty International's campaign to end the Darfur genocide, arrives June 12 with an elementary pitch.
"Buy a record, save a life," says Jeff Ayeroff, the CD's consultant and former vice chairman of Warner Bros. Records, a Karma partner with Amnesty and Yoko Ono. "The idea is to raise consciousness and put money on the ground."
The basic $19.98 CD has 20 John Lennon covers, including the title track by U2, Working Class Hero by Green Day (a video is also expected), Mother by Christina Aguilera, Power to the People by the Black Eyed Peas, Love by The Cure, Jealous Guy by Yousou N'Dour, Imagine by Willie Nelson and Real Love by Regina Spektor. Tunes by Big & Rich and Jack Johnson are also due.
Half the 40 tracks will be available overseas or as bonuses on CD tailored for online and big-box retailers. Give Peace a Chance is interpreted by Aerosmith with Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars and by a Japanese ensemble in the vein of We Are the World. All will be sold as individual downloads. Artists donated recordings and Ono waived publishing rights to Lennon's catalog.
The project "is typical Yoko and the kind of political act and plea for sanity John would do," Ayeroff says. He calls Lennon an incentive for activism. "He's an icon, a martyr. He as the archetype for Bono, and young kids know this."
A key lure is #9 Dream by R.E.M., featuring departed drummer Bill Berry for the first time in 10 years. (A-ha also does the tune for the European disc.)
Due on radio today, Dream was a one-shot, "but who knows what the future holds," R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills says. "He's still a fantastic drummer. It's my favorite John Lennon solo song, and it's a nice opportunity to have an influence, however small, on pressuring the Sudanese government to let U.N. troops in.
"I'm both deeply cynical and optimistic. The cynicism comes from the fact that this revolting situation exists. Music is a powerful influence in raising awareness, and you never know which ripple will knock the boat over."
Larry Cox, Amnesty's executive director, has seen music sway masses, particulary in such Amnesty efforts as the 1988 Human Rights Now! tour.
"There's no situation that demands more action more than Darfur, and this project seems like the perfect vehicle," he says, adding that each Karma purchase, which includes temporary Amnesty membership, could generate more than cash and enlightenment. "It's about enlisting a new generation of activists. Young people are eager to help. They're not jaded or depressed. Our challenge is overcoming a degree of hopelessness. We can't afford to fail."