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Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop Artists Praised for Humanitarian Efforts in 2005


2005 saw nature rise in fury; musicians unite for global good; Michael Jackson walk; Eminem fall; Destiny's Child disband; and Mariah Carey resurrect her career. VOA's Ray McDonald looks at the year in pop, rock, and hip-hop.

One of the defining events of 2005 actually occurred on December 26, 2004. An undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia unleashed a gigantic tsunami, killing more than 200,000, and leaving millions homeless. Musicians the world over united to raise money for the victims. Here in the United States, actor George Clooney organized a major concert featuring Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Elton John, and many other top stars. They raised more than $18 million the first night. Also contributing were the American Idol contestants: the fourth series lineup performed "When You Tell Me That You Love Me," with proceeds benefiting American Red Cross tsunami relief.

Wind and water again wreaked havoc in August, when Hurricane Katrina leveled the city of New Orleans. Famed for its music scene, the "Big Easy" may never be completely rebuilt. Hip-hop artist Kanye West created a storm of his own, straying from the teleprompter during a Katrina benefit performance. He criticized the government's response to the disaster, declaring "George W. Bush doesn't care about black people." The incident certainly didn't hurt West's career. Kanye West's sophomore album, Late Registration, went to Number One, while he topped the pop singles chart for 10 weeks with "Gold Digger."

Kanye West and Jamie Foxx teamed for "Gold Digger," featuring a sample from Ray Charles. The R&B great - who died in 2004 - was the hero of February's Grammy Awards. He swept the ceremony with eight trophies, while Jamie Foxx earned a Best Actor Oscar for his work in the film Ray.

March saw the annual Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, with U2, The Pretenders, Buddy Guy, The O'Jays, and Percy Sledge comprising the Class of 2005. U2 enjoyed a dominant year. The Irish quartet was the top-grossing touring attraction of 2005, while Time Magazine anointed lead singer Bono among its Persons Of The Year.

While tsunamis and hurricanes galvanized much of the music world, others turned their attention to the ongoing problem of international poverty. Twenty years after organizing Live Aid, Sir Bob Geldof once again mobilized the music world in July with Live 8. Timed to coincide with the G-8 world economic summit in Scotland, five huge concerts employed musical star power to raise awareness about global poverty. U2 and Sir Paul McCartney kicked off the flagship concert in London with a rousing rendition of "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

U2 and Paul McCartney performed "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," during a July 2 at Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park.

The year's other major news story took place in California, where Michael Jackson stood trial on 10 counts of child molestation and conspiracy. On June 13, the jury returned its verdict: Not guilty on all counts. The "King Of Pop" almost immediately relocated to the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, where he is reportedly working on a Hurricane Katrina benefit single.

The hip-hop culture is a reliable source of drama, and 2005 was no exception. The week before releasing his sophomore album, The Massacre, 50 Cent kicked fellow rapper The Game out of his group, G-Unit. The action prompted gunplay outside a New York radio station where 50 Cent was conducting an interview. One man sustained leg injuries. From happier times, here are 50 Cent and The Game with "Hate It Or Love It."

While 50 Cent topped the year-end album chart with The Massacre, his autobiographical film Get Rich Or Die Tryin' opened in November to poor box office response and lukewarm reviews.

Also in the news was 50 Cent's friend and mentor, Eminem. The rapper checked himself into a hospital in August, citing a dependency on sleep medication. He emerged at year's end, saying he'll likely take a hiatus from performing. He also reunited with his ex-wife Kim, and released his fourth consecutive U.S. Number One album, a greatest hits collection titled Curtain Call.

Life continued in the lulls between natural disasters and trials. Britney Spears announced her pregnancy in April, and five months later had a baby boy. Kylie Minogue announced in May she was battling breast cancer, and is currently recovering from chemotherapy. The members of Destiny's Child went their separate ways in September, although few observers expect the split to be permanent. Mariah Carey pulled off the year's biggest revival, selling four million copies of her comeback album The Emancipation Of Mimi, while earning eight Grammy nominations.

While most acts come and go, others leave us poorer for their absence. Luther Vandross died on July 1, two years and three months after suffering a stroke. He was considered the premiere soul singer of his generation. Luther won four Grammy awards on the strength of his final album, Dance With My Father.

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