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Canadian artists come together in ‘Lean on Me’ cover for coronavirus relief

(L-R) Canadian musicians Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber.
(L-R) Canadian musicians Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber. CP Images Archive

As a final musical treat during Sunday evening’s all-Canadian charity TV special Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble, more than two dozen artists — old and new — banded together for a virtual ensemble of the late Bill Withers‘ Lean On Me.

The 1972 soul classic was not only covered by the likes of Canuck legends Avril Lavigne and Michael Bublé but Bryan AdamsSarah McLachlan and a heavily autotuned Justin Bieber, too.

The collective artist initiative, known officially as ArtistsCAN, was organized and set up by Juno Award-nominated singer-songwriters Tyler Shaw and Fefe Dobson. Earlier this month, the two enlisted the massive, star-studded roster of Canadian musicians to record Lean On Me from the comfort of their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conjunction with Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble, ArtistsCAN’s rendition of Lean On Me was released as a charity single to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross’s COVID-19 initiatives.

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The cover was accompanied by a heartfelt music video featuring all who contributed to it, including Jann ArdenBuffy Sainte-Marie, Command Sisters, Johnny Orlando and former Rush frontman Geddy Lee.

READ MORE: ‘Stronger Together’ — Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé and more unite for Canadian coronavirus special

The emotional video began with a message for the “late, great Bill Withers.”

It read: “Thank you for your lyrics and inspiring message. We are grateful to lean on music during our time of need. Your musical legacy lives on through us.”

Canadian superstars like environmental activist David Suzuki and broadcaster George Stroumboulopoulos were seen throughout the video.

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Mike Smith (Bubbles) of the ‘Trailer Park Boys’ in ArtistsCAN’s ‘Lean On Me’ charity video for the Canadian Red Cross’s COVID-19 relief efforts on April 26, 2020.
Mike Smith (Bubbles) of the ‘Trailer Park Boys’ in ArtistsCAN’s ‘Lean On Me’ charity video for the Canadian Red Cross’s COVID-19 relief efforts on April 26, 2020. ArtistsCAN / YouTube

Others, like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys (portrayed by Mike Smith), were seen holding pieces of paper with messages to the country. His read “#CanadaStrong” and “#NovaScotiaStrong,” acknowledging the horrific shooting that took place in Portapique, N.S., on April 18 and 19.

“Thank you first responders,” read a number of signs, which paid homage to the front-line health-care workers fighting the novel coronavirus across not just Canada but the rest of the globe, too.

READ MORE: Rolling Stones drop ‘Living in a Ghost Town,’ 1st song in 8 years

On putting together ArtistsCAN, Shaw, 27, said: “When I heard of Bill Withers’ passing, I was listening to all his legendary music and I really dove into the lyrics of Lean On Me — a song I’ve heard hundreds of times.

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“In this current climate, the lyrics seem more profound than ever. I wanted to cover it; I wanted to help.”

“ArtistsCAN is true artist-to-artist connection,” said Dobson, 35. “We know there a lot of people who are struggling, who have lost their jobs, who can’t financially contribute. So this is a way to help because by just streaming the song, or watching the video, the proceeds go directly to the Canadian Red Cross to help fight this virus.”

Artwork cover for the ArtistsCAN ‘Lean On Me’ cover for COVID-19 relief efforts. April 2020.
Artwork cover for the ArtistsCAN ‘Lean On Me’ cover for COVID-19 relief efforts. April 2020. Sony Music Canada

ArtistsCAN’s Lean On Me Canadian charity single is now available through all major streaming platforms.

Details on how to donate to the Canadian Red Cross can be found here.

READ MORE: Avril Lavigne re-records ‘Warrior’ in honour of coronavirus front-line workers

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

What’s cancelled or postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic?
What’s cancelled or postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic?

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca