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POP EYE

Got Any Plans for Dec. 10, 1998?

August 27, 1995|Steve Hochman

Get ready for another comeback by a top figure from the '80s rock world.

No, not Billy Idol nor John Mellencamp. It isn't even a performer.

It's Jack Healey--a 57-year-old ex-priest who is virtually the antithesis of a rock star.

But it was his friendships with rock stars that, in his role as the executive director of Amnesty International, brought about a series of pop music charity and education events that helped define the era.

It culminated with the 1988 "Human Rights Now!" world tour featuring Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour. The trek, which included stops in such exotic locales as New Delhi and Harare, Zimbabwe, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights.

With the 50th anniversary of that landmark on the horizon, Healey--who left Amnesty two years ago and founded the Washington-based Human Rights Action Center--once again has his sights set on a global fund-raising and education effort centered on music. But for this one, you won't even have to leave your house.

"I'm planning a 24-hour telecast with each hour presenting music from a different country," says Healey, displaying the contagious enthusiasm that drew artists to his past efforts. "It might start in Ireland with one Catholic band and one Protestant, then maybe from Turkey with both a Turk and a Kurd. So by the end you'd have seen all the faces of the world, with the best musicians from each country."

The event is planned for Dec. 10, 1998, the actual anniversary date. While no artists have committed this far ahead, the potential for support is indicated by the fact that both Peter Gabriel and U2's Bono lent their names to recent magazine ads for Healey's organization.

This year on Dec. 10, Healey will kick off a three-year build-up campaign with a concert at L.A.'s House of Blues. He's got several young acts on the hook for the event, but says he can't say who they are until it's official. Also in December, copies of the declaration will be handed out at Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the first phase of a planned multimedia blitz about human rights issues.

The 1988 tour was arguably the end of what now seems to be a brief golden age of pop music benefits, launched by the 1984 and '85 Band Aid/Live Aid projects aimed at relieving the famine in Africa. In the years since, artists have rarely come together on anything approaching that scale for such causes.

"A lot of the musicians said they had 'compassion fatigue,' " Healey says, scoffing. "I can see the musicians and singers who went around the world being tired--I almost died under the burden of that tour. But those other people who would only do anything once in a while, that's not too fatiguing."

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