Hope For Haiti Now, an album of highlights from last week's all-star telethon, debuts at #1 on this week's Billboard 200 chart. It's the first album from a benefit concert or telethon to reach #1. The granddaddy of such albums, 1971's The Concert For Bangla Desh, logged six weeks at #2. Ex-Beatle George Harrison was the driving force behind that concert and the resulting album. Another take-charge George, actor George Clooney, teamed with MTV Networks to spearhead Hope For Haiti Now
Nearly 20 charity albums have reached the top 40 since Harrison's ground-breaking release. Several of these albums urged Americans to look beyond their borders and respond to crises in such far-flung areas as Bangla Desh, Kampuchea, Africa, Kosovo and now Haiti. Three were created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Three more were designed to raise money to fight AIDS. Others were created to stop nuclear power and to fight apartheid.
There were also top 40 albums that benefited Amnesty International and the Special Olympics.
Here are the key albums in which musicians have teamed up to do good. They're listed in chronological order.
The Concert For Bangla Desh, 1971. This triple-disk live album was recorded on Aug. 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. George Harrison organized the show, which featured such stars as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr. Harrison and Phil Spector co-produced the album, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Peak Position: #2.
No Nukes/The MUSE Concerts For A Non-Nuclear Future, 1979. Like The Concert For Bangla Desh, this triple-disk live album was recorded at Madison Square Garden. Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, John Hall and Bonnie Raitt teamed to produce the album. (Hall is now a U.S. Congressman from New York.) MUSE stands for Musicians United For Safe Energy. Peak Position: #19.
Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea, 1981. Paul McCartney & Wings, The Who, The Pretenders, The Clash and Queen are among the artists on this double-disk live album, which was recorded in London in December 1979. The album wasn't released until April 1981. Peak Position: #36.
The Secret Policeman's Other Ball/The Music, 1982. Phil Collins, Sting, Donovan and Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton headlined this sequel to the 1981 album The Secret Policeman's Ball. Both albums were recorded at benefit concerts for Amnesty International. Peak Position: #29.
We Are The World, 1985. The title song, recorded by USA For Africa, was the main attraction on this album, which raised money to alleviate starvation in Africa. The song reached #1 and won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. The album also included songs by Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago and Kenny Rogers. Peak Position: #1.
Sun City, 1985. The title track, credited to Artists United Against Apartheid, became a top 40 hit. It featured 49 stars who came together to protest South Africa's apartheid government. Little Steven and Arthur Baker organized the project, which featured Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen. Peak Position: #31.
A Very Special Christmas, 1987. U2, Whitney Houston, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks were featured on this album, which was the first in a series of seven releases (the first three made the top 40). The franchise has raised millions of dollars for the Special Olympics. Peak Position: #20.
Red Hot + Blue, 1990. This collection of Cole Porter songs raised money for AIDS research and relief. It kicked off a series of "Red Hot AIDS Benefit" titles. Highlights include U2's "Night And Day" and Neneh Cherry's "I've Got U Under My Skin." Peak Position: #38.
For Our Children, 1991. Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Carole King and James Taylor are featured on this collection of lullabies and children's songs. The album raised money for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Peak Position: #31.
No Boundaries-A Benefit For The Kosovar Refugees, 1999. Alanis Morissette, Peter Gabriel and Neil Young are featured on this album. The album also included Pearl Jam's smash remake of "Last Kiss" and Rage Against The Machine's version of Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." Peak Position: #18.
God Bless America, 2001. This compilation, which was released just six weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, raised money for the Twin Towers Fund. It featured a mix of patriotic and inspirational songs, everything from Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A." to Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Peak Position: #1.
What's Going On, 2001. This EP featured such pop stars as Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and Britney Spears performing under the collective name Artists Against AIDS. The ensemble's remake of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" became a top 30 hit. The project benefited AIDS research. Peak Position: #18.
The Concert For New York City, 2001. This double-disk live album was recorded at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 20, 2001. Proceeds were donated to the Robin Hood Relief Fund. The line-up includes Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, The Who, Elton John and Billy Joel. Peak Position: #27.
America: A Tribute To Heroes, 2001. This double-disk live album featured performances from the telethon that aired on Sept. 21, 2001. It raised money for the Sept. 11 Disaster Relief Fund for Sept. 11 victims. The album featured such songs as U2's "Walk On" and Bruce Springsteen's "My City Of Ruins." Peak Position: #17.
Hope For Haiti Now, 2010. This star-studded album was created to support earthquake relief in Haiti. Key tracks include "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)" by Jay-Z with Rihanna, Bono and The Edge; "Hallelujah" by Justin Timberlake (with Matt Morris); and "Lean On Me" by Sheryl Crow (with Keith Urban and Kid Rock). Peak Position: #1.
The Fine Print: I didn't include albums that were primarily viewed as tribute albums, even if they raised money for charity. 1991's Deadicated, a tribute to the Grateful Dead, benefited rain-forest preservation. 1993's Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles, a salute to the genre-bridging group, boosted the Walden Woods Project.
I also didn't include the annual Grammy Nominees CDs because they're primarily viewed as music compilations of general interest, not as charity albums (even though a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Recording Academy's in-house charities, MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation).
Finally, albums weren't released from the Live Aid concert in 1985 or the Live 8 concert in 2005, though in both cases DVD collections were.