These past weeks in the U.S. have been filled with holiday joy and unspeakable national sorrow. The slaughter of women, children and firefighters at the hands of the insane is impossible to fathom. Perhaps it's time to re-examine gun registration standards and the treatment of mental illness as well as the proliferation of video games and films that glorify gruesome crime, torture and cowboy justice.
The horror and savagery of these murderous acts in America overshadowed news related to a different sort of disaster that occurred in the U.K. in April 1989. Back then, 96 Liverpool soccer fans at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England were crushed to death and more than 766 were injured as surging fans outside were waved through turnstiles by police ill-trained in crowd control. Fans already in the standing area inside had no place to go.
Shortly after the semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham began, signs of trouble appeared on camera. To escape the crush, stronger male fans began to try and reach the upper-tier seats and were pulled up when possible. Those down front could do little more than move forward and backward with the undulating sea of bodies. Unknown to people watching TV at the time was that girls, boys and adults were being crushed to death—unable to move forward due to fencing or backward due to crowds continuing to flow in.
Documentaries show vividly what happened next. Yet for decades, authorities and some in the media had falsely blamed the deaths and injuries on alcohol abuse and hooliganism. And for decades, those who were there said otherwise—pointing to poor crowd control by police and a stadium standing zone that treated fans like cattle, with little regard for safety.
This past September, an independent report finally was released in the U.K. 23 years later, blaming the deaths on a lack of proper police control. The report also concluded that local authorities had tried to pin the tragedy on Liverpool fans.
The report's release now clears the way for families of the deceased and injured to push for justice. While soccer stadiums no longer feature lethal standing areas similar to those that existed at Hillsborough, families still want those responsible to be brought to task. But such legal drives cost money, and many victims and their families don't have such assets.
Enter some of the U.K.'s biggest pop stars—including Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and Beverley Knight. In the fall, they recorded The Hollies' hit He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother—with each star singing one or two lines of the song. Sort of We Are the World—but with participants recording their lines separately. Proceeds from international sales are going to a fund to be used by the families for legal fees.
Here's a multipart documentary on the Hillsborough disaster...
Here's the Justice Collective's He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother video...
Who's singing on the track? Here's a list, courtesy of Pete Byrne...
The road is long - ANDY LAWSON
With many a winding turn - ANDY LAWSON
That leads us to who knows where - GERRY MARSDEN
Who knows when - PAUL HEATON
But I'm strong - GLENN TILBROOK
Strong enough to carry him - GLENN TILBROOK
He ain't heavy, he's my brother - JOHN POWER/ROBBIE WILLIAMS
So on we go - JOHN POWER
His welfare is of my concern - MELANIE C
No burden is he to bear – ROBBIE WILLIAMS
We'll get there - ROBBIE/MELANIE C
For I know - REBECCA FERGUSON
He would not encumber me - HOLLY JOHNSON
He ain't heavy, he's my brother - HOLLY JOHNSON/REBECCA F
If I'm laden at all - BEVERLEY KNIGHT
I'm laden with sadness - BEVERLEY KNIGHT
That everyone's heart - PALOMA FAITH
Isn't filled with the gladness - PALOMA FAITH
Of love for one another – ELIZA DOOLITTLE
It's a long, long road - DAVE McCABE
From which there is no return - PETER HOOTON
While we're on the way to there – REN HARVIEU / JON McCLURE
Why not share - JON McCLURE / REN HARVIEU
And the load - DAVE McCABE
It doesn't weigh me down at all – PAUL MCCARTNEY
Coz he ain't heavy – PAUL MCCARTNEY
(He ain’t heavy) – SHANE MACGOWAN
He's my brother - SHANE MACGOWAN/ BEVERLEY K
He's my brother - ALL (most)
He ain't heavy, he's my brother - ALL (most)