Monday, August 21, 2000

Crosby pays tribute to musicians who have 'Counted'

        When musician David Crosby wanted to interview Whoopi Goldberg for his book about benefit concerts, she told him to bring a camera with him. Why?

        “Because it's supposed to be a documentary, fool!” the Comic Relief co-founder told him.

        What a fine documentary it turned out to be, the four-hour Stand and Be Counted (9-11 p.m. today and Tuesday, Learning Channel).

  What: Stand and Be Counted, a David Crosby documentary about music's role in political activism.
  When: 9-11 p.m. today and Tuesday.
  Where: The Learning Channel
        The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member has interviewed a who's who of rock stars and edited their comments with clips of Live Aid, Farm Aid, Bangladeshand Amnesty International fund-raising concerts.

        “All my life I've been fascinated . . . by the courage of people who stick up for what they believe in — Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Harry Belafonte and Joan Baez. And I wanted to ask them, "Why? Why do you do this?' ” Mr. Crosby explained in the film.

        Wisely he put Mr. Seeger, Mr. Guthrie and the history of musical causes in the second hour.

        So Stand and Be Counted opens with greatest hits from benefit concerts:

        “Layla” (Eric Clapton), “Every Breath You Take” (Bruce Springsteen and Sting), “Maggie's Farm” (Bob Dylan), “Runaway” (Bonnie Raitt), “Bangladesh” (George Harrison), “Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne), “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills & Nash), “Scarecrow” (John Mellencamp) and the “We Are the World” celebrity sing-along.

        “People were very generous about letting us use great music in it. It really is a historical document,” Mr. Crosby told TV critics last month.

        Only a respected, veteran rocker like Mr. Crosby could have pulled this together. “I had at least a passing acquaintance with almost everybody that we talked to,” he said.

        For the film, he chatted with Phil Collins, Elton John, Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, Mr. Belafonte, Carly Simon, Graham Nash, Tracy Chapman, Don Henley and 50 more musicians.

        The most impressive scenes, though, are of Bob Geldof returning to the African plains which were packed 15 years ago with the starving people who inspired him to create the Live Aid concerts in 1985.

        “Instead of feedlots full of human beings waiting to die by the thousands, by the ten-thousands, you see green land, and we know we did that,” Mr. Crosby said.

        “I think we have affected things,” he said with great satisfaction.

        “People standing up for what they believe in is an incredible force. There's nothing more powerful in the world than an idea, and the idea of a human being doing exemplary acts of humanity inspires other people,” he said.

        “That's what we're trying to get across: That if you believe in something strongly enough, and you are willing to stand up for what you believe in, it will affect people around you in a ripple that spreads out. You can effect the world. And it's happened over and again.”

        According to Mr. Crosby, U.S. musical activism dates back nearly 150 years. An anti-war benefit concert held shortly after the Civil War featured “an orchestra of 1,000 and a chorus of 2,000 to sing and play about peace,” he said.

        Music fueled the union movement in the early 1900s, and the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests in the 1960s.

        “We thought we could stop it (the Vietnam War) in a year by being activists. But it took us 10,” he said. “I don't think anybody would discount the effect of activism on ending that war.”

        Why wasn't the film sold to MTV or VH1?

        “Stand and Be Counted is not just about the music,” explained Jana Bennett, the Learning Channel's general manager. “It's about the people, the tragedies, the triumphs and our history over the last 50 years . . . It's a people's history.”

        For a long time, it was just going to be a book. A film was the farthest thing from the mind of Mr. Crosby, whose father, Floyd, won an Oscar for cinematography for Tabu (1931).

        “I know that documentaries are very hard to sell,” he said. “Nothing blows up (in documentaries). There's no car chase. Nobody takes their top off.”

        True. But his has some great rock 'n' roll.



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