Man, talk about timing.
First of all, my apologies for the long disappearance. Explanations forthcoming in a second post.
But secondly, this. This masterpiece. This behemoth of ‘supergroup’ charity songs. This strangely odd roster of people, mostly comprised of folks standing at the center of a Venn diagram, the two sides of which read ‘At their peak in 1991’ and ‘Largely obsolete in 1992.’ Following in the giant footsteps of 1980s charity singles such as ‘We are the World’ and ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas,’ this single, and an accompanying documentary, was released to demonstrate support for US troops in Operation Desert Storm. Unfortunately, the documentary was released on the Exact Same Day that Operation Desert Storm ended – Feb 28, 1991.
Oops. Kind of rendered the whole bombastic thing null and void, didn’t it?
Well, not really. The song still climbed the charts, probably boosted by local radio stations who would intersperse snippets of nearby families wishing their loved ones a safe journey home, or to demonstrate support for those remaining overseas. However, while reaching #11 on the Billboard Top 100, it didn’t make the year-end best-of list, and pretty much went gently into that good night at the end of the long 1980s.
Let’s just explore this thing, shall we?
Michael Bolton and Celine Dion, natch. Peter Cetera? Well, okay. He was still rocking the top of the charts in both solo and duet form at the beginning of the 90s. Two-fifths of New Edition (the non-BBD fifths, of course) – but given pride of place, somewhat surprisingly. Ralph Tresvant gets the opening lines, while Bobby Brown gets two! different solo moments – the only other not yet mentioned who gets that dubious honor is Jani Lane of Warrant. But … The Pointer Sisters? In 1991? How about Little Richard? And what a strange smattering of other lead vocalists—Nelson alongside Kenny G, Mark Knopfler, Randy Travis, the then-ubiquitous Garth Brooks, and perhaps the single stodgiest appearance by Will Smith, née The Fresh Prince. It’s all completely overblown in its attempts to be Sincere and Patriotic, just about every artist clenching his or her fists in empathy and staring out across the horizon. The only voice that seemed like it actually cared came from that most beautiful of R&B souls, Luther Vandross, may he rest perpetually in peace.
I think for me, one of the best moments in this song is the end. The gentleman who recorded the original demo of the song was a relative unknown named Warren Wiebe, and David Foster invited him to stand amongst the royalty and deliver the last of the solo lines, which he did with style and aplomb. He can stand next to Luther on the sincerity podium any day. But seeing this slight, balding man standing in between Alan Thicke, a pubescent Fred Savage, Don King (?!) and Sally Field … well, I’m ready for TGI Friday and some milk and cookies. How about you?