I had almost forgotten that Miles Davis was part of the amazing line-up of artists assembled for the Artists United Against Apartheid’s benefit song, “Sun City.”
It was 1984-85 and “Sun City” was the third of the benefit singles that had everyone singing the choruses to either “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are The World.”
Ben Lazar at A Deeper Shade Of Soul has a great retrospective of the song.
He writes: “It was an incredible lineup then – and in retrospect, it seems even more incredible. Most of the artists, in direct contrast to the ones on “We Are The World,” have gained in stature nearly a quarter century after the recording. Back then, as I wasn’t familiar with many of the artists on the record, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But thinking about it now – Lou Reed and Miles Davis and Springsteen and Joey Ramone and Bobby Womack and Melle Mel and David Ruffin on the same single? Jesus!”
Here’s the line-up:
Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, Lou Reed, Run DMC, Peter Gabriel, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Jackson Browne, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil-Scott Heron, Nona Hendryx, Pat Benatar, and Joey Ramone.
Lazar is absolutely correct. That is a pretty incredible lineup of musicians.
Lazar does note that even with a superstar lineup, strong message and a darn good tune, compared to the mega success of “We Are The World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” “Sun City” was ultimately ‘ a commercial dud.’
“We Are The World” may have been the pop hit,” says Lazar, “but “Sun City” was by far the better song. Given that the song itself, with Apartheid gone, is now superflous, it’s even further testament that the record holds up so wonderfully, in groove, spirit and soul.”
Okay, so where’s the look back at “We are Stars,” the 4th benefit single? The collection of famous rock stars known as Hear ‘n Aid recorded the song to raise money for famine relief in Africa.