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Beds are Burning lacks power and passion: cri -

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SHANE MCLEOD: Now, take dozens of well-known musicians, have them rework a classic song and donate
the proceeds to charity.

With that much star power you can't possibly go wrong - or can you?

Musicians from around the world have reworked the Midnight Oil classic Beds Are Burning to
highlight climate change issues.

Critics say it's the latest in a long and slightly lame line of celebrity benefit collaborations.

But activist groups and Peter Garrett himself say it would be wrong to underestimate the importance
of songs like these.

Timothy McDonald reports.

(Music: Beds are Burning - extract collaborative version)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Peter Garrett says it's a very different take on the Oils original.

PETER GARRETT: Yeah look I have heard it. It took me a couple of listens to come to where they've
been with it. I think it's good. It's quite a sweet, maybe somewhat more lilting and empathetic
kind of treatment of the music. It's interesting to hear the music done in this way.

But what's most striking about it I guess is just all the different vocal contributions and the
fact that you've got a whole heap of different people in a sense coming in and singing through the
song and I think they've done a really good job. And I think the clip looks excellent too by the
way.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The latest song features rock veteran Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, Fergie from
the Black Eyed Peas and the slightly subversive pop singer Lily Allen. The former UN secretary
general Kofi Annan also makes a cameo.

Midnight Oil themselves had a hand in rewriting the lyrics.

Bernard Zuel is a senior music writer for the Fairfax Papers. He says too many chefs have clearly
spoiled the broth.

BERNARD ZUEL: It's awful. It's very, very bad. It's more likely to encourage you to burn fossil
fuels I suspect.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: But he says that's par for the course for these celebrity benefit bonanzas.

BERNARD ZUEL: We Are The World remains, along with a couple of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
duets, among the worst songs every recorded.

(Music - We Are The World)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Bernard Zuel says it's great that all these celebrities want to help and the
subject matter fits very well with Midnight Oil's political leanings. It's just that the song lacks
a certain power and passion.

BERNARD ZUEL: The sentiments are obviously fine. It would suit the Midnight Oil approach. But it
just doesn't work as a Midnight Oil related song. The best thing about it would be if you didn't
know anything about the original then you might just think it's wimpy.

Once you know where it's come from and if you're a member Midnight Oil, you'd just have to say well
look our hearts are in the right place. Forgive us.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Peter Garrett doesn't see it that way.

PETER GARRETT: Hey look, it's far too easy for people to be cynical about the way music reaches
people and touches people and inspires them. And the fact is that this is a soundtrack for the
times. It's a song that's going to be used in a way which is I think very positive. And I hope
people, you know, have a listen and jump on the site and do something.

Ed Coper from activist group GetUp! agrees. He says these songs can make money and raise funds but
perhaps more importantly they can energise a new audience.

ED COPER: Well look, you know, one of the experiences of GetUp! last year after the apology to the
Stolen Generations we commissioned a poll that found that 16 per cent of 19 to 24 year olds didn't
know when we asked them the question do they support the apology. So obviously people aren't
talking to that demographic.

Now who is that demographic listening to? Well quite often the answer is people in popular culture
that may have political opinions that can be expressed as well.

(Music: Beds are Burning - extract collaborative version)

SHANE MCLEOD: That report from Timothy McDonald.

'Beds are Burning' video clip