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Knight: Tornado victims could use musical recording, too

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Weeks after 17 devastating tornados swept a destructive path through central Illinois, and hours before an impressive lineup of Midwest rock 'n' roll recording artists play a benefit for area victims at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum, a feeling arises: Perhaps a next step could be a recording of regional musicians to use their talents to pitch in, too.

After all, the outpouring of assistance already has seen local churches and schools do what they could; volunteers, charities and businesses from the heartland lending a hand; and colleges such as Carl Sandburg and Western Illinois University and even pro sports teams offering labor, money or an ear to hear what must be said:

"Help, please."

The Chicago Bears and Blackhawks; the Second City comedy troupe and White Sox legend Jim Thome (and all four of the Major League Baseball teams he played for) all have assisted.

The skills and spirit of Central Illinois musicians make one think a CD anthology of area artists is possible as a fruitful and fun follow-up to this week's "Rock to the Rescue Extends a Hand to Those in Need" show – featuring REO Speedwagon, Styx, Larry the Cable Guy, Richard Marx, Head East, Ted Nugent and more.

It could be done.

Already, in a related effort, "Radio Rescue" in recent weeks involved the area stations owned by JMP Integrated Media and collected more than $47,000 in person at two collection sites.

"We were easy to spot with station vans," said WIRL-AM 1290 DJ Lee Malcolm. "People did not need to get out of their cars. When they came over to us, we went up to meet them. We had a consistent flow of traffic during a 12-hour period, starting at 6 a.m."

Other media rallied to the cause, too, notably the "Help on the Homefront" telethon spearheaded by public TV's WTVP-TV 47 but involving all central Illinois television outfits and raising more than $786,000.

Elsewhere, responding to a different disaster, dozens of musicians from U2 and Linkin Park to Bob Dylan and the Beatles donated songs to a compilation benefiting those affected by last month's super-typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. That album, "Songs for the Philippines," has 39 tracks and is already available on iTunes.

The artists, record companies, and management agreed to donate proceeds from the release to the Philippine Red Cross.

As to a central Illinois effort: Recording studios operate in the area to record, mix existing material or organize an anthology from participating groups (many of whom already have tapes); and it's been done in other ways, such as WWCT's terrific "Basement Tapes" LPs from the 1980s, and the Prairie SUN's "Pointy Feet Beat" (1979) and "Heartland USA (1981). In non-musical endeavors, group-effort books I helped with (such as "Peoria People" by the Peoria Newspaper Guild and "Naked Came The Farmer," a paperback benefiting the Peoria Library) that people often embrace opportunities to help and collaborate, when asked.

A record would make memories of the momentous outpouring of faith, hope and love more than of the devastation, tragedy and grief. Such a memento also would be a keepsake collector's item as well as a fund-raising vehicle for the Red Cross or some other recipient who'd be transparent in their receipts and expenditures. And for musicians who take part, it would have some measure of promotional value but, more importantly, it would show their connection to central Illinois and "pay back" their area audiences.

Think about other artists on the aforementioned "Songs for the Philippines" – Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber; Bruno Mars and Michael Bublé; the Kings of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Madonna and Pink; Eminem and Enrique Iglesias; Earth, Wind & Fire and James Blunt; Pitbull with Christina Aguilera and a host of awesome women: Adele, Beyoncé, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry and more.

Then consider all the abilities in central Illinois, which can make the mind reel and the heart soar. There's the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and the Heartland Festival Orchestra; Ed & Janet Kaizer and Ed & Judy Howard; Jimmy Binkley and Preston Jackson; JammSammich and the Central Illinois Jazz Society House Band; sax maniac Eddie Rushing of Elmwood and Paul Anderson of Avon; the Knox-Galesburg Symphony and guitarist Chris Stevens with or without Cobalt Canopy, Bob "Whale" Miller & Captain Strobe and the Elvis Brothers; high school bands and ensembles; Cadillac Jack and Private Blend; Dave Hoffman and Greg Williams; traditional Irish bands the Bogside Zukes and Turas; the Robin Crowe Band and the West MacQueen Street Band; Dave Chastain and Bernard Allison; Sally Weisenburg & Don Berbaum and Craig Moore with or without the Speechless project; songwriting Catholic Post editor Tom Dermody or maybe a cut from the St. Ann's Band's inspiring "All Are Welcome" or – most appropriately – "Faith+Love+Hope."

If half of these groups donated a recorded tune or recorded a new song with help from area studios, a wonderful fund raiser would result.

It's an idea.

And a feeling.

About the Author
Bill Knight recently retired after a couple decades teaching journalism at Western Illinois University. Now, you might find him strolling through the streets of Elmwood with his wife and fellow writer, Terry Bibo, along with their son, Opie, and his beloved collie, Lassie.* *Actually this last bit isn’t true. Not to mention the fact that our writer got “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Lassie & Timmy” mixed up.