Monday, March 12, 2007

First Police, now R.E.M. (sort of...)

First the great news about the Police officially reforming to play the Grammys and tour this spring and summer (can't wait! I'll see many of you at Dodger Stadium in June).

Now, the original four members of R.E.M. (singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and ex-drummer Bill Berry) got together in the studio last year to record a cover of John Lennon's masterwork "#9 Dream" as part of a charity collection titled "Instant Karma: the Campaign to Save Darfur." I'm sure the band's recording (which goes out to radio this week, with the album itself set for release on June 12) is great and I can't wait to hear it.

As most of you know, I rarely talk about politics in this column. In fact, I am happy that R.E.M. and a number of other bands are (finally) working with Amnesty International to try to bring some attention to the terrible genocide going on in the Darfur region of western Sudan. I recall doing a story several years ago (2003, as I recall) about Costa Mesa-based singer-songwriter-composer Ken Tamplin, producer of the Sudan relief CD "Make Me Your Voice," an effort that got very little attention in the mainstream media. In fact, Tamplin was honored by President Bush for his efforts and I suspect because so many of the victims have been black Africans and/or Sudanese Christians and those doing the killing are mostly Muslim that the world has been afraid to speak out.

I think it would have been good for the U2s and R.E.M.s to focus on Sudan five or six years ago, and now I fear by the time something is done it will be too late. And I fear the world has lost its resolve to use force to stop the terrible murders and rapes going on in Sudan so it will be the killers who ultimately determine when the crimes stop. And that it a timeline that means innocent men, women and children will continue to die for far too long.

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