Tonight marks a very special and important television event. Last week, a massive earthquake struck the Caribbean island of Haiti, tearing through the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Coupled with the already-struggling state of the country and a series of aftershocks, the destruction of buildings, infrastructure and human life has been astronomical. The international community immediately sprung into action, and millions of dollars have already been raised.
But the cost of providing medical care, food and infrastructural repairs will be enormous, which is why hundreds of celebrities are coming together tonight in three cities to raise funds during “Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief.” Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean — live from Los Angeles and New York, respectively — for a series of reports from the ground courtesy of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and musical performances from Madonna (New York), Bruce Springsteen (New York), Alicia Keys (Los Angeles), Dave Matthews (Los Angeles), Taylor Swift (Los Angeles), Justin Timberlake (Los Angeles), Beyoncé (London) and a collaboration between Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono and the Edge (London), among a host of others.
“You got about 130 to 140 actors, athletes, singers and television hosts, and they’re all coming up not to be on TV, but simply to answer the phones,” Clooney told MTV News during rehearsals for tonight’s big event.
So follow along here starting at 8 p.m. ET for all the insight, reactions, news and performances. For more information about the situation in Haiti, stay tuned to MTV News. If you’d like to make a donation to support the relief effort in Haiti, head over to HopeForHaitiNow.org or call (877) 99-HAITI.
9:58 “Enough with the moping, man!” Wyclef shouts. “Let’s show them where the Haitian people come from!” He drapes a Haitian flag around his neck and turns up the energy for a fiery duet with sister Melky. The evening ends there, but you still can — and should — contribute to a noble and worthwhile cause. Remember that all of tonight’s musical performances — as well as the entirety of the show — will be available for download on iTunes.
9:55 Denzel Washington encourages everybody not to lose hope, and reminds us that the road back will be long and hard but completely possible. He introduces Wyclef Jean, who performs his “Rivers of Babylon,” which segues into “Yele.” As perhaps the most visible Haitian in the music world, Jean delivers the performance of a lifetime.
9:52 Dave Matthews and Neil Young team up with their acoustic guitars to harmonize on “Alone and Forsaken,” a stark folk tune with a haunting melody.
9:45 In London, Jay-Z, Bono, Rihanna and the Edge perform the new song they created specifically for this cause. It’s a powerful tune that features a confident rap from Jay and angelic backing vocals from Bono and Rihanna. “The sky falls/ The earth quakes/ We gonna put this back together/ We won’t break,” Jay raps in the refrain.
9:44 Tom Hanks tells another story of a survivor: A man who combed Port-au-Prince for 60 hours trying to find his family.
9:40 Brad Pitt talks about a guitarist in Port-au-Prince who spent the first night after the earthquake playing for the fallen in the city. He introduces Haitian artist Emeline Michel, who sings “Many Rivers to Cross” accompanied only by an organ, and it’s positively jaw-dropping.
9:33 Chris Rock reads some words written by Muhammad Ali, who appears with him live in Los Angeles. Rock talks about the importance of charity and about how moved Ali was when he first saw the images of the earthquake’s aftermath. Jennifer Hudson then launches into a soulful version of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
9:31 Justin Timberlake sits behind the piano in Los Angeles to perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He’s joined by newcomer Matt Morris, and their harmonies are gentle and sweet.
9:25 CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us on a tour through the makeshift medical facilities in Haiti, where people wait for hours for medical care that is in short supply. Gupta tells Anderson Cooper that they are in desperate need of antibiotics so as to fight off infection and help people recover from surgery.
9:23 Ben Stiller notes that because Haitian children go to school in the afternoon, they were all in class when the earthquake hit. Rebuilding schools is an important step to recovery, and Stiller notes that even though that could be six months or a year away, the work gets started tonight.
9:21 Backed by a small army of backup singers, Madonna performs a soaring, boisterous version of “Like a Prayer.” We can’t help but clap along.
9:18 Bill Clinton checks in live from New York. He talks about how he fell in love with the place during his first trip there 35 years ago. As the special envoy to the country, Clinton says he still has faith in the nation’s ability to rise up and recover, and that his fundraising project with George W. Bush will provide medical help now and rebuilding efforts down the road.
9:16 Anderson Cooper talks live with the girl whose rescue we witnessed a few segments ago. He talks about how the struggle to be rescued only begins the story for the survivors in Haiti. Cooper says she has lost 10 members of her family but is soldiering on.
9:12 Morgan Freeman reads a poem by Kalamu ya Salaam, who wrote a tribute to Haiti after he visited the island nation. Freeman yields to Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock and Keith Urban, who sing a three-way acoustic version of “Lean on Me.” It’s especially nice to hear Rock, whose bluesy rasp lends the song some real urgency.
9:08 Steven Spielberg talks to a Presbyterian minister about how she and her congregation have been dealing with this tragedy and reaching out to help. Spielberg talks about the types of things they need to buy, like medicine and flashlights.
9:03 Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood talk live from San Francisco about the volunteers and peacekeepers from around the world who were lost during the earthquake. In London, Beyoncé performs a gentle version of “Halo,” accompanied only by Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano. She includes the lyric “Haiti, we can see your halo.”
9:01 Robert Pattinson talks about how the tragedy in Haiti has brought the world together, and how it’s up to all of us to help out. Sting follows him with a jazzy take on “Driven to Tears,” with added funk provided by the Roots.
8:56 Anderson Cooper takes us through downtown Port-au-Prince, where they find a girl who is still alive under the rubble. The men trying to extract her have only one shovel between them and no other tools, but they manage to remove her from the layers of concrete. The girl tells Cooper that she could hear people around her dying as she waited for rescue.
8:52 Next up: Christina Aguilera, whose voice sounds typically full and rich as she deftly navigates her way through “Lift Me Up,” a stunning new ballad.
8:50 The video footage of various rescue operations is truly staggering. The stories of people surviving for five, six and seven days underneath piles of rubble are, as Nicole Kidman put it, “awe-inspiring and a miracle.”
8:48 Back in Los Angeles, Taylor Swift takes center stage for “Breathless,” a song originally recorded by Better Than Ezra. It’s another great performance on a night full of them.
8:41 Samuel L. Jackson lets us know that 100 percent of the donations are going directly to the people of Haiti via charities like the World Food Program, the Red Cross, UNICEF and Oxfam International.
8:39 Jon Stewart talks about the resiliency of the survivors who crawled out from under the rubble following the earthquake. Up next is Mary J. Blige, who soulfully belts out the traditional Civil War hymn “Hard Times Come Again No More.” It’s a truly stunning performance, and Blige has never sounded better.
8:34 John Legend takes his turn behind the piano for “Motherless Child.” Just a reminder, all of these performances will be available on iTunes, and it’s been a roundly excellent batch of songs so far.
8:31 Anderson Cooper talks to the director of an orphanage in Haiti, who actually had to defend orphans from robbers this week (they were looking for food). Cooper says that even before the earthquake, there were hundreds of thousands of orphans in Haiti.
8:29 In a cool bit, we get to drop in on a donation call with Reese Witherspoon. She talks about the energy and love in the room, and she reassures everyone that no donation is too small for a cause like this.
8:25 Shakira joins the proceedings to sing the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” a fitting torch song for the people of Haiti.
8:23 Wyclef Jean introduces himself as a Haitian and an African. “Last week I was in Haiti. I was there to pull my friends from the rubble,” he says. He talks about carrying bodies to the cemetery and warns about the “second wave” of suffering. He closes his statement in Creole. “From the ashes, we shall rise,” he says.
8:18 Leonardo DiCaprio talks about the struggles of a doctor in Haiti who wrote about the setbacks this week’s aftershocks caused. He makes way for Stevie Wonder, who sits behind his piano for a run through “A Time to Love.” He moves smoothly into “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
8:16 Following a sweep of the phone banks (where everybody seems busy — a good sign), CNN’s Anderson Cooper checks in for the first time from Haiti. He talks about the slow progress on the ground and the desperate need for medical help and supplies. The images of the destruction are truly staggering, but Cooper says that faith and hope still remain.
8:13 Live in New York, Bruce Springsteen introduces the classic “We Shall Overcome” as “A little prayer for Haiti.” He’s got a set of gospel-voiced backup singers that turn the song into a hymn. The night is young, but so far the performances have all been top-notch.
8:10 Back in Los Angeles, Halle Berry tells the story of a boy who lost his house and his parents in the earthquake and lived on his own for eight days. As we’ve heard in stories all week, there are far too many instances like this, and Berry asks everyone to donate to help the children.
8:07 The show cuts to London, where Coldplay are performing an acoustic version of their song “A Message.” The lyric “You don’t have to be on your own” hits hard and true.
8:04 George Clooney is live in Los Angeles, discussing the poverty and hunger that already existed in Haiti before the tragedy. “The Haitian people need our help, and they need to know we still care,” he says.
8:01 The show opens with a photo montage of earthquake survivors, followed by Alicia Keys playing “Prelude to a Kiss” by herself at a piano. It’s a fitting introduction to what should be an emotional evening full of powerful music and images.