Performing to the Beat of a Good Cause


Benefit concerts are usually built around headline-grabbing issues such as AIDS awareness, disaster relief or politics.

But some of the biggest names in pop music--from Stevie Wonder and the former Prince to James Taylor and Sheryl Crow--will rally around a far less publicized issue on Thursday at the fourth annual VH1 Honors ceremony at the Universal Amphitheatre. It’s just one of a string of pop benefits next week.

The VH1 show, which will be hosted by Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”) and will also feature performances by Steve Winwood and the Wallflowers, is expected to raise about $150,000 for music education programs in public schools around the country.


“It’s a very popular cause,” says Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the event, which will be taped for airing on Friday at 9 p.m. on VH1. “And I think that’s because every artist on the show can point to a time in their life where some sort of music education played a part in directing their career. Somewhere along the line, there was a teacher who said, ‘You’ve got it. This is what you ought to do.’ ”

VH1’s “Save the Music” program, which on the day of the show will present a $75,000 check to the L.A. Unified School District, includes a musical instrument drive and a fund-raising wing that helps to restore and maintain public school music programs.

Coincidentally, East L.A. roots rockers Los Lobos will headline an unrelated show that benefits education the night after the VH1 Honors program.

The band’s Friday concert at Whittier’s Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts will be its third in support of the Broadoaks Children’s School of Whittier College. A private, nonprofit child development center, Broadoaks also functions as a learning laboratory for college students and professional educators.

“In the kind of business we’re in, things like this really ground you and make you realize there’s more to life than tour buses and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Louie Perez, Los Lobos’ drummer and one of the group’s principal songwriters. “We’ve always tried to make ourselves available to the community, and this particular cause is close to us--close to me, in particular--because my son attended Broadoaks.”

Proceeds from last year’s Broad-oaks benefit turned a dilapidated building into the sparkling Los Lobos Learning Center.


“It’s really a matter of taking a little bit of responsibility with your success,” Perez says of benefit concerts in general. “It’s taking the attention you receive as a musician and refocusing it on something that’s necessary to all of us as human beings.”

Perez’s thoughts apply equally to a pair of more traditional benefit shows that are scheduled for the Southland next week:

* Tony Bennett performs Monday at the House of Blues in a tribute to Billie Holiday. The “God Bless the Child” concert will benefit UCLA’s Child Violence Prevention & Intervention Program.

* Steve Earle joins John Doe, Peter Case, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Art Alexakis of Everclear for an acoustic show Friday at Billboard Live that will raise money for the Musicians’ Assistance Program. MAP, as it is more commonly known, aids musicians and other music industry professionals suffering from drug and alcohol abuse.

* Tony Bennett plays Monday at the House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m. $75. (213) 848-5100; the VH1 Honors show is Thursday at the Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 6 p.m. $35 and $55. (818) 980-9421 (show airs on VH1 Friday at 9 p.m.); the MAP benefit is Friday at Billboard Live, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m. $25. (310) 786-1712; Los Lobos plays Friday at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, 6760 Painter Ave., Whittier, 8 p.m. $75-$250. (562) 907-4203.

‘Romeo’ Doth Return: By the very nature of its story, the 1996 film “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” will not inspire a sequel--or probably won’t, anyway. But the blockbuster soundtrack album, which has sold 2.3 million copies, has spawned a second collection of music from the movie.


Unlike the original soundtrack, which is a collection of alternative-rock songs that includes the hit singles “#1 Crush” by Garbage and “Lovefool” by the Cardigans, “Volume 2” mixes the lush, orchestral score with sound effects, dialogue from the film and pop songs, including the album’s first single, Quindon Tarver’s remake of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”

The record is designed as a “modern opera” that tells the story from start to finish, says Baz Luhrmann, who directed the film and conceived the album.

“There’s so much great music in this film that didn’t make it onto the first record,” says Karyn Rachtman, vice president of soundtracks for Capitol Records, which will release “Volume 2” on Tuesday to coincide with the video release of the film. “You can only put so many songs on a record.”

The success of the original soundtrack inspired “Volume 2,” but Capitol doesn’t expect another runaway hit.

“We expect to make money,” Rachtman says, “but it’s really more of a collector’s item. It’s for your hard-core fan.”