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30 Years Ago: Heavy Metal Legends Convene for ‘Hear ’n Aid’ Sessions

On May 20 and 21, 1985, one of the greatest heavy metal summits of all time took place at Los Angeles’ A&M Records Studio for the creation of a charitable single, “Stars,” later issued by the project known as Hear ’n Aid. The cause was raising money for famine relief in Africa — as it had been for recent efforts undertaken by pop musicians, in both the U.K. (Band Aid) and the U.S. (USA for Africa), but that’s where the similarities ended and Hear ’n Aid stood alone.

But it was in fact 1984’s Band Aid that sowed the general seeds for Hear ’n Aid’s existence, along with a 48-hour radio telethon hosted by L.A. radio station KLOS, specifically, which happened to be attended by Dio members Vivian Campbell (guitar) and Jimmy Bain (bass), among many other stars. Together, the duo crafted a new song and asked their boss, Ronnie James Dio, to help with some lyrics and, before anyone could count to 11, heavy metal had an answer to Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World.”

Its name was “Stars,” and the roll call of hard rock and metal stars eager to lend their talents to those sessions was nothing short of astonishing. In common with those pop music efforts, “Stars” witnessed a string of leather-lunged singers trading lead vocals lines — namely Dio, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom, Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow, Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, Y&T’s Dave Meniketti, Rough Cutt’s Paul Shortino and Dokken’s Don Dokken, as well as dozens more providing backup, including members of Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P.

Distinct among all these musical charities of the time, “Stars” did its metal heritage proud by boasting an extended jaw-dropping guitar solo that collated fireworks of shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen, Dokken’s George Lynch, Craig Goldy, B.O.C.’s Buck Dharma Roeser, Twisted Sister’s Eddie Ojeda, Journey’s Neal Schon, Quiet Riot’s Carlos Cavazo, Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis and co-songwriter Campbell, who also contributed rhythm guitar parts, along with Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, who flew in from their band’s massive World Slavery Tour to do their part with harmony parts.

Even Ted Nugent came down to sing backup — as did the members of spoof-metal band Spinal Tap to lend a few laughs to the otherwise dead serious circumstances.

Unfortunately, obtaining legal clearance for so many artists signed to so many different record labels proved a daunting task that would delay the music’s release for months. The Hear ’n Aid compilation LP finally arrived in stores in January 1986, packing recordings donated by major names such as Kiss, Rush, Motorhead, Accept, Y&T, Scorpions, the Jimi Hendrix estate and Dio.

By then, “Stars” had also been made available as both 7” and 12” singles (peaking at No. 26 in the U.K., No. 39 in the U.S.), and the entire historic event was eventually celebrated by a 48-minute documentary filled with interviews, outtakes and behind-the-scenes clips. And while some of those involved feared that the legal delays had diminished Hear ’n Aid’s impact, one could likewise argue that they also extended awareness for famine relief for a few more months, well into 1986.

In any case, the nearly $1 million raised by Hear ’n Aid speak for themselves, and the still-unmatched collection of heavy metal star power that came together during those two days in the name of a good cause.

 

The 10 Most Important Moments in Dio History

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RONNIE JAMES DIO’S Widow Is Resurrecting A 1980s Supergroup For Charity

Most of you reading this are probably too young to remember, but back in the 1980s rock stars loved getting together to record songs for charity. They didn’t love it as much as cocaine, but celebrity supergroups where probably a close second. The two most well-known of these were Band-Aid, a supergroup organized by Bob Geldof that raised money to fight hunger in Africa with “Do They Know It’s Christmas;” a song that portrayed the continent as a Mad Maxian hellspcape, and USA For Africa, which was led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and also raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa with the (noticeably less bleak) song “We Are the World.” Each of these projects raised millions of dollars for their respective causes and had the added bonus of inspiring Vivian Campbell and Jimmie Bain of Dio to approach Ronnie James Dio with an idea for a heavy metal and hard rock version of these groups.

The three went to work writing a song that would eventually be called simply “Stars,” and on May 20th and 21st assembled a murderer’s row of heavy weight singers and guitarists to record the song at A & M Studios in Hollywood, California under the name Hear ‘n Aid. Among the participants were Dio himself, Rob Halford, Chris Holmes and Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.), Yngwie Malmsteen, Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot), Ted Nugent, Don Dokken (Dokken), Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe), and Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche). Dio intended for the song to be released as a single shortly after it was recorded, but some legal malarkey with the record labels involved held the release up until New Years Day of 1986 when “Stars” finally saw the light of day. Dio and company also released a making-off documentary to and a full album featuring some additional songs by artists like AcceptRush, and Motörhead to accompany the song. “Stars” peaked at #26 at the UK Singles chart in 1986, and, according to Ronnie James Dio, it raised $1 million that first year.

Now, nearly 30 years after the initial release of “Stars,” Dio’s widow Wendy has announced her intention to release the original song with loads of bonus material. On a recent interview with SiriusXM’s Eddie Trunk she said, “We are in talks right now with a couple of record labels to reissue Hear ‘n Aid, with the funds going to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. She went on to say, “We have so much stuff that was never released before — behind-the-scenes stuff that was shot during the whole time. We have photos galore of everybody that was involved in it, and I think it’ll be fantastic. We just have to work on it. It may not come out this year, because I want everything to be perfect, as Ronnie would want it to be, but I am in talks about it, and that will be coming out, definitely.”

Additionally, Wendy stated that a new Hear ‘n Aid track will be recorded for charity, although she didn’t reveal the names of anyone involved. Just that the line-up would consist of current and classic artists and proceeds would go to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund and it probably wouldn’t be out this year due again to legal bullcrap with some record labels. Below you’ll find the video for the original version of “Stars.” Yeah it’s cheesy, but it’s also a lot of fun and it was for a good cause. Keep your eyes peeled for more news regarding the new incarnation of Hear ‘n Aid.

[h/t Blabbermouth]