As the horrifying stories and grim details continue to emerge from New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the daily happenings in popular music may seem a trivial pursuit at best. Musicians, however, have long been a part of the city's rich cultural history, and they too have been affected heavily by the disaster.
As previously reported on SoulShine.ca, legendary New Orleans resident Fats Domino was reported missing in the days following the hurricane, with family and fans fearing the worst. Contact with the elderly pianist was re-established when one of his daughters serendipitously spied a picture of her unidentified father being helped out of a rescue boat in the September 1st edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Domino, who has sold over 100 million records over his lengthy career, told the Washington Post that, much like his fellow New Orleans citizens, he had "lost everything" in the flooding.
Alex Chilton, another New Orleans legend who was reported missing for days after Katrina hit has now also been confirmed as alive and well. Chilton, lead singer of 60s hitmakers the Box Tops and later singer-guitarist and songwriter for the hugely influential power-pop group Big Star, was reported missing on August 30th and had not been heard from for almost a week. However, his family confirmed that Chilton had contacted them as of Sunday night and that he was safe and sound.
Other musicians with New Orleans connections who have lost relatives or suffered catastrophic property damage include Juvenile, Ani DiFranco, and Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, to name a few.
As might be expected, musical stars of all stripes were drafted in to raise funds relief efforts, including this past weekend's hurricane relief telethon in New York. During the benefit, rapper Kanye West strayed from the script and blasted President George W. Bush and his government's lacklustre response to the crisis, alleging that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." West also singled out perceived racist bias in media reports relating to so-called looting of grocery stores by starving residents forced to wait days for a government response to the catastrophe.
Future star-studded benefits have also been planned for the coming weeks by music channels BET, GAC (Great American Country), and MTV/VH1.
Writer: Neil McDonald