FILE PHOTO: Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala – Met Gala – Camp: Notes on Fashion- Arrivals – New York City, U.S. – May 6, 2019 – Lady Gaga. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
April 19, 2020
By Jill Serjeant
(Reuters) – Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Beyonce kicked off a global special of music, comedy and personal stories in what Gaga called a “love letter” to frontline workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-hour “One World:Together at Home,’ broadcast across multiple television channels in the United States and overseas, featured a Who’s Who of pop culture, with contributions, filmed from their homes, from Elton John, Stevie Wonder, British soccer star David Beckham and former U.S. first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush. Oprah Winfrey, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Billie Eilish and dozens of others are also expected to appear.
“I’m so grateful for the healthcare workers, the medical workers, all the grocery store workers and delivery people, the postal workers, all the other nonprofits that are working so hard,” Gaga said.
“This is really a true love letter to all of you all over the world, and I hope a reminder of the kindness that’s occurring right now,” she added.
Hosted by three of the biggest late night television show hosts in the United States – Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon – the special paid tribute to teachers and healthcare, grocery, delivery, postal and other workers.
“We aren’t asking for money tonight,” said Colbert.
The event, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the nonprofit group Global Citizen, was the biggest celebrity effort so far to mark the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 people worldwide.
It is also aimed at encouraging philanthropists and companies to contribute to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Corporate and other donors have already contributed some $150 million, organizers said.
“What I’d like tonight, if I can, is to give you the permission for the moment to… ‘Smile’,” said Gaga launching into a version of the ballad made famous by Nat King Cole.
Beyonce did not perform but sent a video message in which she noted the disproportionately high death rates in the black American community due to COVID-19.
“This virus is killing black people at an alarming rate in America,” she said, urging viewers to protect themselves.
The Rolling Stones, appearing in four separate locations, sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards playing acoustic guitars.
Wonder, in a tribute to Bill Withers who died two weeks ago, played “Lean on Me,” while McCartney, recalling that his mother was a nurse and midwife, sang “Lady Madonna.”
“You know the coronavirus is trouble when a Beatle gets involved,” quipped Kimmel.
Earlier on Saturday, pop, classical and rap musicians from the United States, Asia and the Middle East, all performing from their homes, took part in a six-hour livestream ahead of the main event.
The livestream featured the likes of Latin star Luis Fonsi, R&B singer Jennifer Hudson, U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan, India’s Vishal Mishra and Emirati musician Hussain Al Jassmi.
The broadcast included social media postings and news clips showing doctors and nurses being applauded by communities around the world, families greeting each other through windows, and acts of kindness in support of those who are isolated and frail.
Celebrities called on people to stay at home, wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing and put pressure on their political leaders to introduce widespread testing for the disease.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall)