24 years ago – The C.A.R.E. Sessions – the story and video

One of our most ambitious projects was inspired by the all-star cast of Band Aid, which was organized by Bob Geldorf, performing the song “Do They Know it’s Christmas” to raise money for charities to feed starving Ethiopians. The performers included Bono and Adam Clayton from U2, Phil Collins, Bananarama, members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Culture Club. A U.S. version, “We Are the World” followed; organized by Harry Belafonte and his manager. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and featured Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Billy Joel, Steve Perry, and Bob Dylan, among others.  Not long after a Canadian charity record was organized by Bryan Adams and his manager Bruce Allen, “Tears Are Not Enough,” which featured Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummins, Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Cory Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Geddy Lee of Rush, and Mike Reno of Loverboy.

Denny and I decided to do the near impossible: put together an all-star cast of Cleveland musicians –and record our own charity song.  We didn’t consider it far-fetched. We decided to help an Ethiopian relief charity, and also send ten percent of the profits to local food banks in Greater Cleveland.   Denny, our promotion director Jim Marchyshyn, and I set up a lunch in March of 1985 at Jim’s Steak House to run the concept by Mark Benesch, a local Columbia Records rep, to see if he’d be interested in pitching it to the label.

It wasn’t that easy.

Denny spearheaded the project, contacting dozens of local acts and even former Clevelander Ben Orr of the Cars – who was living in Boston but had some Cleveland hits in the ‘60s with the Grasshoppers, when Orr (nee Orzechowski) was known as Benny eleven-letters. Dennis Chandler, a musician who fronted the Strataphonics, a cover band I hired as the house band for our sister oldies rock station WHK (14-K), pitched a song, “We Can Make it Happen.” We invited WKYC anchor Dale Solly to make a video of the performance.  Denny booked the Beachwood Recording Studio to cut the track between April 15 and 26 and took a leave of absence from his weeknight show to supervise production.

As we started lining up performers, we realized the Chandler song wasn’t resonant enough for a big chorus of singers.  Michael Stanley was called in to write a new song, “Eyes of the Children,” with the all-star group in mind.

Only one ego outburst occurred, when it was Rocco Scotti’s turn to sing and he was told what key to sing in.  Scotti, an operatic performer, famed for singing the National Anthem at Cleveland Stadium, lost his temper and said, “You don’t tell me what key to sing in – I tell you what key to sing in,” and stormed out of the studio.

We named the group C.A.R.E. for Cleveland Artists Recording for Ethiopia.  CARE, the famed humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, initially objected but allowed us to use the name once we told them of our plans.

More than forty performers ended up participating, including Orr, Stanley, and Strongsville resident Ricky Medlocke of Blackfoot.  It was a Who’s Who of Cleveland music at the time. Musicians were the Michael Stanley Band. Vocalists included Medlocke, Skip Martin and Kenny Petrus of the Dazz Band, Joe Vitale, Jennifer Lee, the Visions, Alex Bevan, Paul Fayreweather, Mimi Hart of the Bop Kats, and Donnie Iris. Chorus vocalists were Jim Bonfanti, Dave Smaley, and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, Tom and Frank Amato of Beau Coup, Billy Buckholtz and Steve Jochum of Wild Horses; Archie Norris, Kenneth Kevin and David Bell of You-Turn; Ellie Nore and David Smeltz of I-Tal; Audrey Goodwin, Shari Brown, Mark Adison of Nation of One, Bill Pettijohn and Billy Sullivan of Moonlight Drive, Mary Martin, Mark Avsec, and Dennis Chandler.

We premiered the “Eyes of the Children” single on June 26 and the C.A.R.E. video premiered that evening on WKYC’s newscast.  This is an uncut version of the piece, which includes the original commercials and the complete C.A.R.E. session video.

WKYC also presented the “The Making of the C.A.R.E. Sessions” special two nights later on the show Cleveland Alive, which is featured here.

Columbia Records backed out of distribution but Irv Azoff, president of MCA Records, whom I’d met when he managed the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, and many other quality acts, agreed to distribute the song even though it was fated to be a regional hit, at best.

Today, a mint copy of the 12” single goes for $100 in collecting circles.  It also appeared on a bootleg CD compilation of Cleveland artists that was sold in Europe.

…and not to change the subject – but where were you thirty years ago today (7/28)?  Here?  Click it good!

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One Response to “24 years ago – The C.A.R.E. Sessions – the story and video”

  1. My copy of the “Eyes of the Children” album is the most talked about album when local musicians and enthusiasts visit the display wall in the After the Gig office. There is much to talk about when reminiscing about this local gem. John, thank you once again for the walk down memory lane.

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