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Music with a message

July 16, 2008|TINA DAUNT
  • Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, as seen performing at the recent BET Awards in Los Angeles.
Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, as seen performing at the recent BET Awards… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )

FOR YEARS musicians have taken a leading role in one of their industry's most important acts of public service -- turning people's hunger for a great song, well performed, into food that feeds the physical hunger of thousands.

Live Aid for Africa is one of the most famous examples, but so too is Willie Nelson's efforts to save American farms.

Now the wildly popular rock band Coldplay has put itself at the service of one of the world's oldest famine relief organizations, the British-based Oxfam. The group opened its Viva La Vida World Tour at the Forum in Inglewood on Monday night with Oxfam volunteers busily working the corridors, where they handed out fliers urging action against poverty and social injustice. The Oxfam website ( was projected onto a large rotating sphere in the middle of the arena after the show.

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin has been a strong supporter of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign, which seeks to end the dumping of cheap goods into poor countries. Martin -- who has visited Africa, the Dominican Republic and Haiti with Oxfam -- witnessed firsthand how the practice has undermined the local economies. Farmers and manufacturers, struggling to compete, end up out of business and in debt.

On its 2003 world tour, the band collected 10,000 postcards calling for fair trade agreements. This time around, the U.S. presidential election is also a concern. (Small booklets urging people to vote were handed out at the Forum show.) Oxfam's Pete Lusby, who will be traveling with the band members as they make their way across three continents in the coming months, blogged about the experience on the relief organization's website Monday night. He noted that more than 700 people had signed up for more information on Oxfam.

Lusby wrote: "On the way out, people were still singing the chanting chorus to 'Viva La Vida,' " a soaring peace anthem.

He added: "It didn't take the crowd long to learn the words."


Peas sign on with advocacy group

With both presidential nominations decided, here's the real drama being played out in the run up to the national conventions: Who will sing at all parties?

These are the kinds of bookings likely to stay in flux until the last minute because musicians are independent spirits and often have as hard a time making up their minds as a superdelegate.

The Creative Coalition was the first to step out last week with its plans: the Grammy Award-winning group the Black Eyed Peas will perform at the organization's gala at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

And just to make sure there are plenty of celebs in the crowd, the group has signed up a list of coalition delegates: Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dana Delany, Barry Levinson, Matthew Modine, Alan Cumming, Cheryl Hines, Rachael Leigh Cook, Gloria Reuben and Wendie Malick.

In addition to hosting the gala, the Creative Coalition will sponsor a series of other events in Denver, including a luncheon honoring actress Annette Bening and 16 female U.S. senators.

The group has made no announcement on its plans for the Republican convention in Minneapolis.

Nevertheless, officials wanted to make it clear that the Creative Coalition does not endorse political parties or candidates.

Tell that to Sarandon and the Peas.


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