'We all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun …'
In 2007, U2 recorded a pulsating cover of John Lennon's 'Instant Karma' - to support Amnesty International's campaign to stop the genocide and aid the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
The song would later be nominated for a Grammy.
At Amnesty's invitation, several other artists recorded Lennon songs, too - including REM ('#9 Dream'), Christina Aguilera ('Mother'), Snow Patrol ('Isolation') and The Flaming Lips ('(Just Like) Starting Over') … and 15 years ago this weekend, the album 'Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur' was released, going to Number 1 in several countries.
U2 have long been vocal supporters of the human-rights organisation, helping to double its US membership by heading the Conspiracy of Hope Tour in 1986 with the Police, Lou Reed, Joan Baez and others.
Bill Shipsey, who has overseen Amnesty's participation on U2's world tours for many years, helped to put the Instant Karma project together. He set up Art for Amnesty in 2002, 'inspired in large part by U2 and other artists who've engaged with Amnesty since the late 70s and 80s.
'In May 2004,' he explains, 'Yoko Ono and Edge opened a major art sale and exhibition for Amnesty at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
'At around the same time and impressed (I believe) with U2's activism for human rights and involvement with Amnesty, Yoko offered Amnesty the right to record cover versions of all her late husband's post-Beatles songs. This was an amazing offer and we jumped at it. U2 was the first artist we invited to record for the album.'
The royalties helped to fund Amnesty's work in Darfur (where millions of people had been displaced and were directly in the firing line of war, famine and disease) - enabling it to use innovative campaign techniques and technologies (including Google Maps) to monitor the burning and destruction of villages.
To date, he explains, the royalties from physical and digital sales total $5.8 million - making this Amnesty's highest earning single global fundraising project in the 61 years of the organisation's history.
Amnesty thanked Yoko Ono with a giant tapestry called 'Mellow Submarine', created by the Czech artist Peter Sis and unveiled by Yoko, Bono and Edge in July 2015.
The album is still available via on-line platforms, and it's hoped that this weekend's anniversary will prompt fans to listen afresh to this unique musical collection - directly supporting the on-going work of Amnesty as they do. Shine on!
'Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur' was released by Warner Bros/Amnesty International/Art for Amnesty on June 12, 2007.
Photo Credit: Edu Bayer