When I was a senior in high school, INXS was one of the biggest bands in the world. Kick included four Top 10 US singles and was all over the radio. They would release four albums over the next decade with success but nothing quite like their magical run in 1987-1988. And then tragedy struck when lead singer Michael Hutchence was found dead in November 1997, and the band took off a while to rethink its future.
Hutchence was a legitimate rock star – not just a lead singer. He was a front man who primarily shaped the band’s identity and recognition. He had swagger and star appeal. It's hard to believe that it has been over twelve years since his passing; he was only 37 at the time, an age I now realize is very, very young. Today would have been his 50th birthday, and in honor of that, the remaining band members have decided to donate all sales of their single Don’t Change to the Red Cross Haiti relief effort.
Sales of the 1982 song are currently soaring through digital sites such as iTunes and Amazon. In a statement, CM Murphy, INXS Creative Director said, “Thanks to the support of the Universal Music Group and the fans, INXS are thrilled to be able to contribute to the Haiti Earthquake Appeal. Michael was also so supportive of charities and giving back to the community, and I am sure he would be very proud of INXS for making this gesture.” Many fans may feel like the band’s image and industry status was greatly diminished when they became reality TV stars on Rock Star: INXS, but this charitable act can only repair some of the band’s PR in addition to providing much needed financial support to Haiti.
Meanwhile on a broader scale, the telethon Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief will air tonight (January 22) on nearly every broadcast network and many cable stations. A host of heavyweights in the music industry will be performing on the telethon, which sounds similar to the America: Tribute To Heroes Telethon which aired just eleven days after 9/11. I recall holding my then eleven-day-old son in my arms as I watched Bruce Springsteen open that telethon with a touching version of My City of Ruins. Along with Springsteen, Sting, Bono, Wlyclef Jean, and many other artists who performed on Tribute To Heroes will be appearing tonight. Organizers say all the performances will be on sale on iTunes starting Saturday, to add to the fund-raising.
The enormity of loss and destruction of the Haitian earthquake may still seem distant – despite the daily images on television. A picture that ran in last week’s Record newspaper in Louisville showed a man crying as he held his dead baby. Why was that picture run? Grieving people deserve a respect that should inherently include media privacy. That photo did not reinforce the scale of this calamity. Instead, its publication was an act of insensitivity. Hopefully the telethon will reiterate the dire state of Haiti and stress its need for help and relief while sparing us images of carnage and lost hope. And ultimately, hopefully it will bring financial aid, which will turn into a means of rebuilding infrastructure as well as individuals.
On another, more personal note, while Michael Hutchence would have turned 50 today, Chad Hildreth would have turned 40 if he, too, were still with us. Although, Chad didn’t have a lot to do with the local music scene, he was known for doing a killer version of Prince’s Kiss at the state fair karaoke competition. Chad’s brother, Todd, however is a Louisville music mainstay as a member of The Java Men, King Kong, Squeeze-Bot, Liberation Prophecy, and the eponymously named Todd Hildreth Trio and also teaches music at Bellarmine University.
Todd’s Groovy Show was a local cable access program in the early 1990s and a predecessor to Chad’s Live Bait & Poetry, which ran from late 1992 until early 1996 on Louisville TV and occasionally featured music. Chad’s Rick Astley impression and songs like I Miss (Charles in Charge) and Come Back Jackie were memorable comedic moments. Chad later would be a performer with the Actors Theatre intern group, appear in many U of L plays, and become a member of the Blue Apple Players. So, while I have this small albeit public forum, I feel it’s important to remember one of Louisville’s underrated players in our local arts community. Chad had the ability to act, do improv, and always make people laugh.
Chad was not the victim of an earthquake or any other natural disaster. He had Cystic Fibrosis to battle, a much more personal yet equally daunting foe. But much like the indomitable power of the human spirit, Chad lives on in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know him.