9/11 Remembrance: How the Music Industry Was Impacted

4:00 AM PST 09/11/2011 by Shirley Halperin, Ed Christman

Songs were banned, albums rejiggered and tours postponed, but musicians also banded together, writing inspirational songs and raising over $170 million in the weeks after the terrorist attacks.

Like nearly all forms of entertainment, the music industry both felt the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and made its own.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday, the day when music stores typically receive new releases, and several big titles were on deck, including Jay-Z’s The Blueprint. The week after the terrorist attacks, music sales dropped 5%, while the New York metropolitan area suffered a 16.2% decline, according to Nielsen SoundScan (worth noting: six weeks earlier, N Sync's Celebrity album sold a staggering 1.8 million units its first week out). But soon thereafter, music would play an important role in the process of grieving and healing and the eventual return to normalcy.

As the world remembers the events of a decade ago, The Hollywood Reporter runs down how the music community was affected and how it reacted.

More than 165 songs are banned: In a memorandum sent to hundreds of Clear Channel-operated stations, more than 165 songs were listed as "lyrically questionable.” At first, the radio conglomerate denied the existence of such a list, but after industry insider site Hits Daily Double published it, a clarification was made: that the songs were more of a suggestion than an outright ban. Among the songs on the reported list: AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Cheap” and “Highway to Hell,” Alien Ant Farm's cover of Smooth Criminal, Neil Diamond’s “America,” Bob Dylan’s “Knockin' on Heaven’s Door,” Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly,” Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young,” Judas Priest’s “Some Heads are Gonna Roll,” Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” Queen’s “Another one Bites the Dust,” R.E.M.’s “It's the End of the World As We Know It,” and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” The Beatles “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da,” and “Ticket to Ride” were also temporarily deemed to be in poor taste.

STORY: 9/11 TV: 5 Specials Worth Watching 

The Strokes, Dave Matthews remove sensitive tracks from their albums: RCA Records was home to The Strokes and Dave Mathews Band, both artists who took it upon themselves to remove songs with sensitive subject matter, in light of the recent tragedies. For The Strokes, it was the track “New York City Cops” off of their debut album Is This It, which repeated the chorus, “New York City cops / They ain’t too smart." For Matthews, it was “When the World Ends” from the album Everyday.

• Tours are postponed and benefit concerts organized: Terrorism fears caused many tours to cancel or postpone shows, including U2, Madonna, Aerosmith, Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, who later called off the entire European leg of her All For You trek citing safety issues. The Latin Grammy Awards, scheduled for the evening of Sept. 11, and annual music conference CMJ Music Marathon, which was due to kick off on Sept. 13, also had to be rescheduled.

But the music community soon banded together to help victims of the attacks, participating in the September 21 telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes, which raised $150 million for United Way and featured performances by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, U2, Faith Hill, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi and Dixie Chicks. A month later on October 20, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Destiny's Child and others took the stage at Madison Square Garden for a star-studded benefit concert. In the crowd were surviving members of the New York police and fire departments and other emergency services and families of those killed in the attacks.

STORY: 9/11 Anniversary: The Touching Story Behind Showtime's New Paul McCartney Documentary

In December, a compilation of performances from The Concert for New York City was released with proceeds from the two-CD set going to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which helped lower-income New Yorkers and families of rescue workers affected by the terrorist attacks. See a clip below.

• Songs are inspired by 9/11: Albums by Jay-Z (The Blueprint), Bob Dylan (Love and Theft) and Mariah Carey (Glitter) were all scheduled for release on that day, but they would not be the soundtrack to September 11. Rather, songs like Springsteen’s “The Rising,” released the following July, and Alan Jackson’s "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” recorded two months after the attacks, were born, providing renewed hope for healing. An all-star version of Marvin Gaye’s classic "What's Going On" featuring Bono, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani also came together, but perhaps most poignant were previously released songs that took on new meaning -- like Five For Fighting's 2000 hit "Superman" and Enrique Iglesias' "Hero," which arrived at stores on September 3, 2001. 

STORY: Fox, NBC and HBO Will Not Air 9/11 Specials on Sunday

The music business suffers its share of casualties: On September 11, Backstreet Boys set carpenter Daniel John Lee was on American Airlines flight 11, headed from Boston to Los Angeles, where his wife was due to give birth. Former Walt Disney consumer products svp Carolyn Beug was also on that plane, which would hit the North Tower. Jane Simpkin, a member of ASCAP's Northeast music licensing team, was a passenger on the plane that hit the South Tower, while Matthew O'Mahony, the husband of then-Island Def Jam svp of publicity Lauren Murphy and a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, was in the North Tower, as was Michael Andrews, the brother of then-Billboard circulation director Jeanne Jamin.

By the end of September 2001, the music industry had collected more than $170 million to aid families of 9/11 victims.

With reporting by Sophie Schillaci

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