America's hardship brings out the spirit of cooperation among musicians from Bruce Springsteen to Mariah Carey, says Evan Serpick
Bruce Springsteen
Credit: Bruce Springsteen: CBS

Music dominates the ”Heroes” telethon

”What are we to do?” asked Tom Hanks to open Friday’s ”Heroes” telethon, echoing the question reverberating in many American heads since September 11. Celebrities, apparently, are no different in this regard. ”Those of us here tonight are not heroes. We are not healers nor protectors of this great nation. We are merely artists and entertainers, here to raise spirits and, we hope, a great deal of money.”

The two-hour show, broadcast commercial-free on some 32 networks, was so overloaded with A-list celebrities that folks like Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Sylvester Stallone were relegated to answering phones. So many top-notch musicians clamored to take part that no less a star than Michael Jackson was turned down. Clearly, America’s stars felt as helpless as the rest of us and they jumped at the chance to do something that might help the people most affected by the recent horrors.

Music was the night’s centerpiece. Bruce Springsteen opened with an emotional rendering of his eerily appropriate ”My City of Ruins,” which ends with the refrain ”come on, rise up/come on, rise up.” The lineup continued with performances by Stevie Wonder, U2, and Faith Hill, each with the kind of heart-on-sleeve yearning and mourning that connected them to grievers everywhere. Neil Young sat behind a grand piano and played a delicate, perfect rendition of John Lennon’s ”Imagine” that reminded us of our loftiest hopes and dreams for humanity. Alicia Keys followed him with another inspiring piano ballad, Donny Hathaway’s ”Someday We’ll All Be Free.” Even Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, champion of thought-provoking odes like ”Nookie” and ”Break Stuff,” found his soft side, performing Pink Floyd’s ”Wish You Were Here” with the Goo Goo Dolls’ Johnny Rzeznik.