Thursday, February 21, 2019

"Hands Across America" by Voices of America

Song#:  2686
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  65
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Charity

Pop Bits:  Following his work with the USA for Africa charity project, entertainment mogul Ken Kragen thought that more could be done to fight hunger and homelessness and he came up with an idea that would get everyday Americans involved. The essence of the plan was simple - get approximately six million Americans to form a coast-to-coast human chain and all join hands for fifteen minutes. Donations would roll in from participants (who were expected to give between $10-35 for a space in line and a t-shirt) and others who could give to the charity. Kragen took charge and it would take a committee of over 400 people a year to plan the event that would be held on May 25, 1986. Of course, a theme song would be necessary, but since music wasn't the main focal point as it was for USA for Africa's "We Are the World," it would be a star-less recording. Three jingle writers were assigned the task of writing "Hands Across America" and the background music would be performed by members of Toto. The New Jersey Mass Choir would help on vocals with pro sessions singers Joe Cerisano and Sandy Farina handling the leads. Collectively they would be credited as Voices of America. The single was completed and released about a month and a half before the main event. It was able to get on the Pop chart and at least stay logged there until a couple weeks after the event, but it didn't get very far. Without the participation of any major stars either singing or writing, the single was a bit of a hard sell and it fell far short of expectations. The full event fared better, but in the long run it would be known more for being an odd pop culture moment (and the butt of jokes and parodies).

ReduxReview:  It's so hard to judge these charity songs. On one hand, these are created to do something good and no matter the quality, the intentions are valid and admirable. On the other hand, these are songs that people are supposed to listen to and buy just like any other music product. So they should be pretty darn good and listenable. Most of them are not. I do know these are not easy songs to write. They have to be catchy, appeal to a very broad audience, need relatable lyrics, and have to be singable by most everyone. It's like trying to write a Christmas song that will become popular for decades to come. It's a thankless and dreadful task. If I were to judge this song on it's mission, I'd say it was fine. If it made some bucks and brought attention to the subject matter, that's cool. But judging it as an actual song is different. If a band did this track with an everyday set of lyrics and put it out, what would I think? I'm pretty sure it would rank about a 2 or a 3. I'm certain I'd find it an annoying and pandering attempt at some kind of arena rock anthem. So I gotta take both into account. Since I don't like the song itself and I don't think it really did the job it was supposed to for the charity, I'd have to call this a dud instead of a success.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) In the long run, the Hands Across America event would be successful. Just not as successful as organizers wanted. They expected to raise between $50-100 million that would go to various charities. When it was all over, the final take was around $34 million. However, expenses had to be taken out of that and once everyone got paid, the amount that would benefit charities came to $15 million. While it was a nice amount, it was nowhere near the goal.  2) Did hands really stretch across America?  Not quite. While big cities had droves of people packed up in groups, there were gaps in the line in sparsely populated areas, such as the desert Southwest. However, it was surmised that if the estimated amount of people who took place in the event actually stood about four-feet apart in a single line, there would have been a solid line from coast to coast.  3) Two of the theme song's writers, Larry Gottlieb and Marc Blatte, had written a significant hit back in 1981. The pair wrote "When She Was My Girl," which became a #1 R&B/#11 Pop hit for The Four Tops. The two would also write several other songs together including the 1986 #4 Country hit "Read My Lips" by Marie Osmond. Gottlieb also co-write Trisha Yearwood's 1996 Country #1 "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)."


No comments:

Post a Comment