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Not enough tears for Lean on Me

“I never knew I needed Justin Bieber and Bryan Adams harmonizing together but here we are.”

That was one of the comments on the YouTube video of Lean on Me, as sung by a wide range of Canadian musicians on the Stronger Together broadcast on Sunday evening.

I wasn’t able to watch the show, but I listened to it on CFIS, which was broadcasting the full 90 minutes.

I realized, as I listened to it, how strange it was to listen to a radio broadcast of a TV show. I didn’t have any visuals to refer to, including graphics telling me who was singing or talking most of the time.

Sometimes one of the people would introduce themselves when they took their turn broadcasting from their home; sometimes someone would introduce the next person. But a lot of times I was guessing who was talking at any time.

Some of the voices I could recognize and, especially when they started singing, I knew who it was.

At first, I thought there was something missing, not knowing who was talking or singing, but as the show went along I realized I was listening probably more carefully than I usually did, simply because I didn’t know who was next.

It was an incredible 90 minutes, with musical artists, actors, celebrities like Chris Hadfield and Hayley Wickenheiser, and so-called “ordinary” Canadians all sharing their feelings and memories about what the country (and the world) are going through. There were some comments from people who had lived through the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919, and comments from people on the front lines of today’s fight.

And at the end, there was a song. I was half expecting an updated version of Tears Are Not Enough, the song Canadian artists recorded together for African famine relief.

But they chose to, in a way, honour the late Bill Withers, by using Lean on Me as the final musical number. From Justin Bieber opening it, through Michael Buble, Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Geddy Lee, Buffy Sainte-Marie and a host of other Canadian performers, they made the whole singing from home thing work beautifully.

I’m not ashamed to say that as I watched the video on YouTube on Sunday evening, I cried.

I don’t think I was alone.

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