Almost 25 years ago, a diverse mix of pop and rock musicians filed into legendary record producer Trevor Horn's SARM West studios in London to make the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" That record, recorded under the name "Band Aid," sold millions of copies to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, kickstarted the entire Live Aid phenomenon of musicians raising money to alleviate global crises, and thus helped remake the image of at least some members of the rock fraternity from selfish hedonists to global do-gooders.
Later this month, Horn will host a very different group of musicians at SARM West to record a version of the prayer "Oseh Shalom Bimromav" (He Who Makes Peace in High Places), at the request of Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Sacks say he wants to come out with an "anthemic" recording and an accompanying video which he'll post on Youtube, as the flagship of his contribution to next month's Israel's 60th birthday celebrations.
Since last summer, Sacks, who has just turned 60 himself, has been assembling recordings of well known songs and plenty that are more obscure, and compiled them onto two CDs interspersed with his own readings, to highlight the "awe and drama" of the tale of Jewish people's survival and attachment to Israel.
In the process, he also became acquainted with acclaimed producer Horn, whose wife Jill Sinclair is Jewish, and who produced and arranged new recordings of the final three songs on the CDs, including "When You Believe," from the movie The Prince of Egypt
, and "Hatikvah."
Some 200,000 copies of the CDs, entitled "Israel - Home of Hope," are to be distributed worldwide (including by this newspaper) in the coming weeks.
But Sacks, who was in Israel last week, said he had asked Horn to go back into the studio again to complete the project with an anthemic "Oseh Shalom."
Horn was a pop star himself, reaching number one as part of The Buggles in 1979 with the song "Video Killed The Radio Star" and briefly playing with progressive rock heavyweights Yes. But he made his mark more emphatically as a producer in the 1980s, notably with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, ABC, Grace Jones and the Pet Shop Boys.
"Band Aid" took shape after Irish-born pop singer Bob (now Sir Bob) Geldof saw a BBC report on famine in Ethiopia in late 1994. He was moved to write a song to try to raise funds for the victims, and asked Horn to produce it. Horn was unavailable, but offered the use of the SARM West studios free of charge. That November, with co-writer Midge Ure producing, the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" single was recorded by musicians including members of U2, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Status Quo, George Michael, Sting and Phil Collins. Horn then produced a B-side for the single, containing messages from other big names who'd missed the recording session, including Paul McCartney and David Bowie.
Recorded on November 25, the single was in the British shops a week later, sold a million copes inside the following week, stayed at No. 1 for five weeks, sold over three million copies in the UK and a million-plus in the US, and thus raised millions.
In a note on Sacks's Israel CDs, Horn, who goes to synagogue with his family although he has not converted to Judaism, dedicates the songs he produced for the chief rabbi's project to his wife. Jill Sinclair has been in a coma for almost two years after being accidentally hit in the neck by their son with an air rifle pellet.
"She has always been a very vocal supporter of Israel and took me there 25 years ago for the first time," writes Horn. "She is entirely responsible for my involvement. No man has had a better wife and I pray for her recovery."