LONG BEACH — If "We Are the World" could raise millions for the starving in Africa, a group here thinks its own record album could do the same thing for victims of AIDS.
So far, the group has two proposed songs, made a demonstration tape, put together a choir of volunteers, raised some money and made plans to raise more. And while the initial steps have been modest, the group's members say they think their plan can not only raise dollars for AIDS patients but also provide solidarity in the fight against deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
"I think it's real exciting," said Ray Kincade, coordinator of the Long Beach AIDS Project under whose auspices the campaign is being waged. "The songs can have a very unifying effect."
How Idea Took Root
The songs and the original idea sprang from Robert Bush, an ex-professional singer and composer, during a Memorial Day barbecue. While talking to an acquaintance whose friend had just died of AIDS, Bush heard the strains of "We Are the World" over a radio.
"I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if something like that could be done for AIDS?' " recalled Bush.
So he sat down and wrote a song. Then another. And with the help of several friends made a demo tape. Now they are engaged in an ambitious fund-raising campaign through which they hope to finance a record.
And last Sunday, 35 volunteer singers from Los Angeles and Orange counties met at the Universal Aquarian Church in Long Beach. The volunteers, who had answered an advertisement in an entertainment industry newspaper, began the first in a scheduled series of rehearsals to meld their disparate voices into a cohesive musical unity.
'This Is My Gift'
"I had a close friend who died of AIDS," explained Alexis Lara O'Donahue, a 22-year-old soprano from Huntington Beach. "He was only 28. This is my gift to him."
The title song on the proposed record, according to Bush, will be "Peace, Love and Harmony," a rousing gospel-type number about "walking together" in the face of common adversity.
On the flip side will be a melancholy tune called "My Name Is Michael." Written for and performed on the demo tape by Michael T. Murphy, 36, who sings in a local gospel group, the song expresses the pain and confusion of a young man whose three close friends have died of AIDS. "It certainly hits home with me," said Murphy, who indeed has known someone who died of AIDS.
"There's a message here that, if you've ever lost anybody, is going to give you a good feeling even if you cry. There are people who need a good cry," said Bush, 58, who, as a member of a trio called The Vogues, made seven recordings for Dot Records in the late 1950s and early '60s. Bush now manages an apartment complex in Long Beach.
Proceeds from the record, Bush said, would go toward providing needy AIDS patients in the area with necessities such as rent, food and clothing.
"Many of these people are too weak to work," explained Kincade, adding that there are now 75 to 80 confirmed AIDS cases just in Long Beach. Other victims, according to Bush, are the objects of discrimination that makes them outcasts and medical bills that leave them destitute.
National Drive Studied
While the immediate aim of the group--which calls itself P.L.H. Assn. after the initials of the title song--is only a 45 r.p.m. single for local distribution, it is working with a Los Angeles public relations firm to see if a national campaign is feasible.
"This could be terribly important with respect to uniting a wide range of factions" in the fight against AIDS, said Mark Manning, a partner in Pride Agency. "All of us like music and all of us like to sing,"
Bush and his associates, meanwhile, are pursuing their more modest local efforts. They have a tentative November recording date at a Hollywood studio being provided at a reduced fee.
"The AIDS thing is so terribly out of control that we, like everyone in this industry, just want to do as much as we can," said Grover Helsley, owner of Grover Helsley Recording Inc., which records the music for such popular television shows as "Remington Steele" and "Cagney & Lacey."
Initial Cost $2,000
Bush estimates the total cost of even a modest initial batch of 500 single records at about $2,000. And Manning says mounting a national campaign would require a minimum initial investment of $10,000 to $15,000.
To date, Bush and his group have raised about $800, primarily from a benefit held at a Long Beach bar. During the next few weeks, they say, they have scheduled several more benefits which, according to Manning, will be attended by various unnamed celebrities in an effort to bolster credibility and attendance.
Members concede that it will be a long haul. But if they can have an effect and enjoy what they're doing, they say, it will be well worth the effort.
"We hope it will be catchy," said Dan Krekelberg, 30, the Northrop production controller and former professional musician who is directing the P.L.H. choir. Members say they hope to have the single record--which they plan to distribute through selected local retail outlets--available by Christmas. "We want people to go around humming it," Krekelberg said.