The Hear n Aid Project Remembered why heavy metal’s answer to USA For Africa matters

For many, life in the U.S. during the mid-1980s kicked ass.  There was relative peace in the wake of the Vietnam experience.  Ronald Reagan was making us feel good about ourselves. Eddie Murphy was making us laugh our asses off.  New at that time, MTV was bringing us music through our TVs (I recorded the Heavy Metal Half Hour on VHS every day).

But at that same time, life really sucked in parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia.  I mean, it was the kind of apocalyptic shit you might see nowadays on video games…except it was real.  The worst multi-year draught (1983-1985) in 100 years. Widespread famine that starved nearly 500,000 people.  Complete economic collapse. Locust plagues. Not to mention civil war, complete with indiscriminate mass killing and large scale rape.  You get the picture – this shit was a disaster on a truly Biblical scale.

Artists from the industrialized West, mainly the U.S. and U.K., took notice of Ethiopia’s plight.  As a result, the 1980s was also a time of supergroup charity singles and charity concerts designed to provide relief for victims of the Ethiopian famine.  There was “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the pop supergroup, Bandaid. There was Live Aid. And of course, there was USA For Africa’s “We Are The World.”  This was all great. I was down with the cause. But I didn’t listen to Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, Lionel Richie, Wham, or Cyndi Lauper. I was a Metalhead.  When would my metal gods step up and put together an Africa relief project that Metalheads like me could get behind?

Enter Ronnie James Dio and his band, which at that time comprised of Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain, Claude Schnell, and Vinny Appice.  Dio and his guys had noticed there was, unfortunately, no heavy metal equivalent to USA For Africa and couldn’t let that fact stand.  They wrote a heavy metal anthem called “Stars” and summoned an army of heavy metal artists to perform it. The project would be called Hear ‘n Aid.

“Stars” was recorded in May 1985 at A&M’s studios in Hollywood.  The basic tracks were laid down by the Dio band and Frankie Banali.  Similar to “We Are The World,” the verses were sung by multiple vocal soloists while the chorus would be sung gang vocal style by a legion of heavy metal artists from that era.  And…wait for it…the guitar solos. There are multiple guitar solos from the guitar heroes of the day. “Stars” clocks in at about seven minutes…and half of it is pure unadulterated shred heaven.  During the sessions, Campbell said, “we have so many guitarists, and all these guys are burning and going for it and playing very, very well and it’s going to be hard to decide what [solos] to use.”  Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult), who contributed a guitar solo, said with a smile, “I really get a charge out of playing with all these other guitar players…and the note density has to be some kind of record.”

“Stars” is a cool song.  True to its era, “Stars” starts with a brief mellow intro. Campbell’s guitar is set to his clean channel. “Who cries for the children?  I do,” Dio croons. Campbell then suddenly kicks his guitar over to his high gain channel and the song reveals its true self – a heavy, yet melodic, ditty about how we’re all stars, heavy metal artists and fans alike, and we can make a difference together.  For the sake of reference, “Stars” sounds like a Dio song, but performed with other artists.

“Stars” was released as a single and Hear ‘n Aid was released as a full-length album featuring “Stars,” and eight other tracks – “Up To The Limit” by Accept, “On The Road” by Motorhead, “Distant Early Warning” by Rush, “Heaven’s On Fire” by KISS, “Can You See Me” by Jimi Hendrix, “Hungry For Heaven” by Dio, “Go For The Throat” by Y&T, and “The Zoo” by the Scorpions.

“Stars” received airplay on MTV.  I know, I know, the quality sucks a garlic fart from the source with a bendy straw, but you can watch the music video here:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZktrrqT1A0[/embedyt]

MTV also aired a documentary of the making of Hear ‘n Aid, complete with interviews and footage of the artists recording their parts.  You can watch it here:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sHaQxEMM_g[/embedyt]

So, for various reasons, Hear ‘n Aid didn’t have the impact of, say, USA For Africa.  Hear ‘n Aid raised about $1,000,000.00. But give it a listen. It was still important and it is worth remembering.  And Hear ‘n Aid also spawned the Craig Goldy era of Dio (Goldy, still with Guiffria at the time, played a guitar solo on “Stars”).

The artists who donated their time and efforts to Hear ‘n Aid are as follows:

The legend RJD with guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen


Vinny Appice (Dio)

Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot)



Jimmy Bain (Dio)


Rhythm Guitar

Vivian Campbell (Dio)



Claude Schnell (Dio)


Vocal Soloists

Ronnie James Dio (Dio)

Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

Geoff Tate (Queensryche)

Don Dokken (Dokken)

Dave Meniketti (Y&T)

Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult)

Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot)

Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt)


Guitar Soloists

Vivian Campbell (Dio)

Yngwie Malmsteen

George Lynch (Dokken)

Neal Schon (Journey)

Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult)

Craig Goldy (Guiffria)

Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister)

Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot)

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)

Brad Gillis (Night Ranger)


The Choir

All of the above, and

Tommy Aldridge (somewhere between Ozzy and Whitesnake at that time)

Dave Alford (Rough Cutt)

Carmine Appice (King Kobra)

Mick Brown (Dokken)

Amir Derakh (Rough Cutt)

Chris Hager (Rough Cutt)

Chris Holmes (WASP)

Blackie Lawless (WASP)

Mick Mars (Motley Crue)

Michael McKean (as David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap…no, I’m not joking)

Vince Neil (Motley Crue)

Ted Nugent

Jeff Pilson (Dokken)

Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot)

Harry Schearer (as Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap…no, I’m not making this up)

Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge)

Matt Thorr (Rough Cutt)

Have another listen and remember it with pride.

Jerry Lee Lucifer.


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