R.E.M., David Bowie, and Bobby McFerrin made news the week of February 16, 1990

The Start of the World as We Know It
R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, 10,000 Maniacs’ Natalie Merchant, and rapper KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions are among the musicians set to tape public-service commercials on AIDS, racism, abortion, and the environment. The ads were conceived by Stipe and filmmaker Jim McKay.

Stadium Machine
David Bowie’s spring ”hits tour,” to start March 4 in Canada with a band that includes guitarist Adrian Belew, has put Bowie’s other band, Tin Machine, on hold despite a nearly completed album. The ever-savvy Bowie is also going head-to-head with Bobby Brown and New Kids on the Block with his own hotline: (900) 2-BOWIE-90.

Bobby Strings Along
Bobby McFerrin who’s wrapping up his next album, will be conducting himself in a different manner March 11, when he leads the San Francisco Symphony in a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

’90s Going on ’70s
Perhaps inspired by the success of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy is planning a comeback. A new album is due from the former Partridge Family sibling this summer.

New Toys on the Block
New Kids on the Block have joined forces with toy manufacturer Hasbro, Inc., for an official line of New Kids dolls and accessories. Set to debut in September, the toys include five ”concert dolls” (with ”stage playset”), a portable tape deck, a New Kids telephone, and ”poster puzzles.”

Homework Was Never Like This
Last month, 40,000 cassettes of Billy Joel’s ”We Didn’t Start the Fire” were sent to junior and senior high schools across the country to encourage the study of American history. Now comes ”Crossroads in Black History,” a high school essay contest and education program pegged to Tracy Chapman’s current album. Students in 15 cities from Seattle to Boston have been asked to write about ”African-Americans who made crossroads in American history”; three winners, to be chosen March 30, will receive college scholarships. The contest, initiated by Chapman’s publicists and her label, Elektra, also is designed to boost the singer’s visibility in the black community.

Purple Reprise
Prince has begun filming Graffiti Bridge, the sequel to his hit movie Purple Rain. His Royal Lensman is also directing, and despite early reports, Batman buddy Kim Basinger will not costar.

The Family That Hunts Together
Hard rocker Ted Nugent has started his own monthly hunting magazine, Ted Nugent’s World Bowhunters, with the help of his wife, sister, and brother-in-law. The magazine, unveiling its third issue this week, is designed to promote ”morally sound hunting.” A March 3 benefit in Lansing, Mich., for Nugent’s various hunting projects will feature an acoustic set by Nugent and wild-game hors d’oeuvres.