Top names in entertainment Tuesday raised millions of dollars for survivors of mega-storms Harvey and Irma, with Stevie Wonder and Beyonce also urging attention on climate change.
Dubbed “Hand in Hand,” the one-hour telethon was broadcast live on all US television networks with mega-stars from George Clooney to Justin Bieber to Julianne Moore answering phones to take pledges.
After an hour of performances in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Antonio, comic Billy Crystal said the telethon raised $14.55 million with more expected as calls came in.
Apple donated $5 million — with co-host Stephen Colbert joking that the figure was the price of the company’s new iPhone unveiled earlier Tuesday — and chemical giant Merck announced $1 million, although it was not clear if the amounts were part of the total.
Stevie Wonder opened the evening with a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” backed by a gospel choir as urged “love” rather than divisions.
“We should begin to love and value our planet, and anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent. Lord, please save us all,” said Wonder, who himself is literally blind.
Beyonce — in a video message that marks her most visible appearance since giving birth to twins in June — said the disasters caused more sorrow “during a time when it’s impossible to watch the news without seeing violence or racism in this country.”
“Natural disasters don’t discriminate, they don’t see if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor,” the Houston-born pop superstar said.
“The effects of climate change are playing out around the world every day,” she said, mentioning as well deadly monsoon floods in India.
While no celebrities overtly attacked President Donald Trump, he has pulled the United States out of the Paris accord on climate change, which experts say is contributing to worsening storms, and last week announced an end to protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children.
Actor Robert De Niro recalled the benefit concert 16 years ago after the September 11 attacks, saying that such unifying events showed the “enduring values that truly define us as a people.”
Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi — behind the global sensation “Despacito” — joined pop star Tori Kelly for a bilingual rendition of Leonard Cohen’s meditative classic “Hallelujah.”
Other musical highlights included a country-tinged cover of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” led by Darius Rucker and Demi Lovato.