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Seattle concerts raise $1 million for hunger fight

An array of music stars, from songstress Emmylou Harris to the rock band R.E.M., wrapped up a week of sold-out benefit concerts here Monday, raising $1 million for a United Nations food program, organizers said Monday.

The Groundwork 2001 benefit series of six nightly concerts in three Seattle venues, which was streamed across the Internet, opened Oct. 14 with a line-up that included Harris, Dave Matthews and lesser-known talents such as alternative pop artist Daniel Lanois and gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama.

“It’s an old trick (to) have the person outside the tent who gets the people inside,” Harris told Reuters in a backstage interview. “I believe people want to help but maybe they just don’t know how, and it takes organizations like Groundwork to make people see that they can really make a difference.”

The concert series to benefit the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization wrapped up Monday with anticipated appearances by R.E.M., Alanis Morissette and Pearl Jam.

Other artists who performed included Chris Whitley, The Wallflowers, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Chocolate Genius, and Michael Franti & Spearhead.

The Blind Boys stole the show Oct. 14 with their version of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” sung to the tune of the blues classic “House of the Rising Sun.” The gospel group followed with a raucous call-and-response version of “If I Had a Hammer,” with the band’s tenor, Jimmy Carter, strolling the aisles to exhort the audience.

Harris brought many in the audience to tears with her rendition of “Abraham, Martin and John.”

Although the benefit concert series was planned well before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, several performers alluded to the tragic events.

A benefit 15-song CD entitled “Groundwork: Act to Reduce Hunger,” will feature donated songs by artists including Harris, Madonna, Tom Waits, Moby, Sheryl Crow, Artis the Spoonman, and Joe Henry.

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