In an attempt to raise money for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed up to 200,000 people, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rang the pop music mogul and talent judge Simon Cowell to ask him to arrange a charity single. Cowell chose the R.E.M. 1992 single "Everybody Hurts."
The cover version was hastily put together by Cowell, who gathered 21 artists to record the song in London, New York and Los Angeles.
The performers are: Leona Lewis, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Cheryl Cole, Mika, Michael Bublé, Joe McElderry, Miley Cyrus, James Blunt, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen of Take That, Jon Bon Jovi, James Morrison, Alexandra Burke, Susan Boyle, Aston Merrygold and Marvin Humes of JLS, Shane Filan and Mark Feehily of Westlife, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams.
Proceeds from the single are split between The Sun's Helping Haiti fund and the Disasters Emergency Committee. Brown agreed to waive VAT and R.E.M. agreed to waive all royalties.
R.E.M.'s manager Bertis Downs told The Sun: "We are deeply touched the song has been chosen for this Haiti campaign. It means a lot that the song the guys wrote all those years ago will be used for such an important appeal."
The song sold 453,000 copies in its first week on the UK singles chart for the week-ending February 20, 2010. It was the first track to sell in six figures during February since "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias eight years previously in 2002.
The song was the first one penned by R.E.M. to top the UK singles chart.
Veteran music video director Joseph Kahn helmed the official promo, which features all the artists except Jon Bon Jovi. He previously worked with Mariah Carey for "Boy (I Need You)" and would helm "#Beautiful." He would reunite with Kylie Minogue for "All the Lovers" and Robbie Williams for "Candy."