Of Money, Time and Protest – When it comes to most musicians, success comes with riches, fame and recognition. While some may wish to kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, others decide to share with others to make the world a better place.
This can be done by sharing their money, time or beliefs. Here are examples of artists who engage with each.
Of Money – Prince
Prince was, without a doubt, a musical genius who carved himself a huge place in pop culture.
Beyond that, he was a very charitable man seemingly willing to toss money toward a variety of causes. Prince even founded his charity, Love 4 One Another, in 1996 in memory of his late son with then-wife (and co-founder) Mayte Garcia. According to their literature, Love 4 One Another: “…continues to strive and drive better outcomes for humanity, by supporting a variety of philanthropic programs and initiatives that are aligned to the core values of the foundation, through delivering resources that enrich and strengthen communities worldwide.”
So, what kind of things has Price done, either through this charity or on his own? He donated $12,000 (asking to remain anonymous) to the Louisville Free Public Library to prevent its closing.
He gave $250,000 to New York’s Uptown Dance Academy.
He donated $200,000 towards the creation of the Harvest and Prep Seed Academy in Minnesota.
And that is only a small, small tip of the iceberg. Following his death in 2016, many stories came to light about how he anonymously donated what amounted to millions of dollars to various charities and causes. Being a Jehova’s Witness meant keeping his donations private, nor did he ever seek publicity for it, so we may never publicly know the true extent of his generosity.
This is what makes his charitable work selfless. Some may make a big deal about the money they’ve donated. Others choose to be generous, seeing the good it does as its reward.
Of Time – Alicia Keys
Generosity with one’s money is a noble attribute. To be generous with one’s time can be equally noble. Those who can and have a high degree of celebrity bring an automatic awareness to the causes they support, pushing them just a bit more forward.
Alicia Keys has done so with her co-founding Keep A Child Alive in 2003, of which she is also the Global Ambassador. According to their mission statement, Keep A Child Alive strives to: “improve the health and well-being of vulnerable children, young people, adults and families around the world, with a focus on combating the physical, social and economic impacts of HIV/AIDS.”
The charity itself came about after Keys herself saw first-hand the impact that HIV/AIDS had on communities during a trip to South Africa. Through her work with Keep A Child Alive, she has toured clinics in Africa to promote the challenges faced by, and care of children and families affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as providing funding for clinics across heavily affected regions. She has also used her talents in music and organization to create fundraising events such as The Black Ball, as well as charity singles such as her duet with U2’s Bono on a cover of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s song “Don’t Give Up”, proceeds going to Keep A Child Alive.
Keys would further turn her attention to Women’s Issues, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS, lending her name and support by speaking at conferences and public service announcements for organizations such as Greater Than AIDS. This is only part of a much larger philanthropic effort on the part of Keys to raise money and awareness for these issues.
She could simply just write cheques, but in using her fame, she’s able to draw more attention to a large issue that ultimately affects so many, being selfless with her time knowing that it helps the greater good.
Of Protest – Sinéad O’Connor
To protest something is to raise your voice about an injustice that you see. Being in the public eye means that you have a great big platform and a huge audience to spread awareness about injustices being committed. Sometimes that message is very divisive and can lead to incredible fallout, even if the artist was right.
Sometimes, you’re just alone in doing this.
Saturday Night Live has had its share of memorable moments, including on October 3, 1992. Tim Robbins was the host and Sinéad O’Connor was the musical guest. During her second number, a modified version of Bob Marley’s “War”, she tore up a picture of then pope John Paul II, proclaiming: “Fight the real enemy.”
O’Connor revealed in an interview sometime after that the act was in protest to the Catholic Church’s physical, sexual and cultural abuses towards children, including herself. All she got for her actions was some support, but lots more abuse, ridicule, threats and repercussions on her career and future opportunities.
The sad part of all of this was how right she was. While abuses have been known for years, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the extent of that abuse was made public. Arguably the match that lit the powder keg was the 2002 article on abuses by the Boston Globe (the basis behind the 2015 movie Spotlight).
O’Connor continued to perform until she died in 2023, though her career never reattained the heights of her earlier success. The scandal followed her, and news about her mental health and failed relationships seemed to get more coverage than her music. After her death, many artists began singing her praises for taking a stand, but others criticized this as being too little too late.
She probably knew that the opinion would be very unpopular, though she probably couldn’t help but raise her voice about it. Christianity is still the world’s most practiced religion, carrying with it a lot of influence. It’s no surprise the fallout that came from it. Though time would ultimately prove her point, she was very selfless in putting it out in such a provocative way, probably knowing that things would never be the same.
These are but three examples of people using their platform to spread the power of good and make known the evils of the world. Many other artists have done the same, their communities being the better for it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
“Kevin Daoust is a guitarist, guitar educator and writer based in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. When not tracking guitars for artists around the world, or writing music-related articles around the internet, he can be seen on stage with Accordion-Funk legends Hey, Wow, the acoustic duo Chanté et Kev, as well as a hired gun guitarist around Quebec and Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.”