What do Connecticut, one of the greatest funk guitarists and a bunch of motivated teenagers have in common? We Are Family Foundation. The organization was started by the legendary Nile Rodgers within days after 9/11. Having been a NY based musician for most of his life the event affected him and he knew he needed to do something to start the healing process. He chose to bring together 200 celebrities to re-record the monster hit he had written for Sister Sledge in 1979. In 2002 there would be another recording targeted at the young that included The Muppets, Arthur, Bear and The Big Blue House, Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents and even Barney in an effort to spread the message that despite diversity we are all family. The recordings and videos were made available for purchase and the funds raised to find, inspire, train and encourage young people to take care of our global "family".
Thursday night WAFF held their annual gala to recognize Global Teen Leaders, who are the core of the organization. These young people do everything from opening people's minds, their hearts and their wallets. Their work has provided money for medical research, educational material and supplies needed for day to day survival all over the world.
Then there were the adults who mentor, motivate and put their money behind the organization. Jennie Stepanek received the award that she traditionally has bestowed on others, The Peacemaker Award, named after her son Mattie. Jennie has earned the title Mama Peace over the years and her affect on the teens at the event was seen in their smiles and hugs as they presented her the trophy.
Daniel H. Stern was chosen as this year's Visionary recipient. His generosity has made many WAFF projects, local and global possible.
Honored for his bringing people together, especially young adults and teens, through his music and living the message of acceptance of all, Adam Lambert was presented with the Unity Award. Lambert introduction was made by his good friend and musical collaborator, Sam Sparro.
Then the night turned to the music and showcasing the superior talent in the house. Nile and Taylor Dayne kicked off the concert segment with rearrangements of "Can't Get Enough of Your Love", "Prove Your Love" and "Tell It To My Heart". Rodgers and Dayne also performed "Love Will Lead You Back" which was dedicated to Claude Nobs, founder for the Montreaux Jazz Festival which the musicians have played.
Next to join Nile and the band were Adam Lambert and Sam Sparro. The set led off with David Bowie's "Let's Dance" another Rodger's penned song. Omar Hakim was on drums as he was for the original recording of the song. Lambert had included the track in his set for the Idols Live Tour after being the show's 8th season's runner-up. Then Nile took a moment to tell the story of the second song in the segment. It had been written and recorded by Adam and Sam for Adam's sophomore album "Trespassing". However when they listened to the demos they felt it needed "something"..."a good Nile Rodger's funk guitar line". The artists decided to ask Rodgers via Twitter if he would consider adding his talent to the track. He agreed and Lambert flew to New York to sit in on the studio session. Thursday night was the first time the three of them have performed the song together and it was phenomenal. Sparro left the stage but Rodger's continued with Lambert to offer instrumental support to the Grammy nominated "Whaddaya Want From Me" and the title track and current single from Adam's current album, "Tresspassing.
The concert segment continued with original members of Chic taking the stage and start a straight-up dance party with iconic songs “Le Freak,” “Everybody Dance,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Good Times”. The evening closed with the sing-along of "We Are Family".
Nile Rodgers resides in Westport, CT and commutes to his NYC studio via Metro-North. He also has a studio at his home. He is a cancer survivor who still tours the world relentlessly. He posts to his "Planet C" blog religiously, keeping his followers up on his projects. He continues to work with legendary musicians along with the up-and-coming. Even after spending a few brief minutes speaking to him, it was clear that funk and music run in this man's blood and it is pumped by a heart of gold. He was definitely destined to do what he does.
For more information on We Are Family Foundation visit their official site. While there take a minute to sign Adam Lambert's birthday card and make a donation. Keeping with his tradition of asking fans to donate to his selected charity each year rather than sending him cards and gifts, WAFF is the beneficiary. Fans took this anual giving to the next step by 1) making donations in the amount of his age and trying to raise Lambert's age times $1000, exceeding it each year. This year is no exception. Adam turned 31 and the current tally is $45,000.
You can read "Planet C" here