Strangely, the song that is most identified with AIDS had nothing to do with the disease. In 1985, Dionne Warwick & Friends covered the Rod Stewart tune as a fundraiser for AIDS research, forever changing its association. It also opened the floodgate for other songs -- written both on a personal and epidemic level -- about AIDS and HIV. As we reflect upon World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 and AIDS Awareness Month, here are 10 notable songs that contribute to our understanding of this pernicious disease.
Jackson wanted to write a song about friends who have died of AIDS, but she didn't want it to be sad or mournful. So in this 1997 dance tune -- probably the most upbeat song you'll hear about the disease -- Jackson looks forward to one day meeting her friends again in the afterlife. With its hopeful message, the song became an anthem for AIDS victims and their families.
While making one of the first mainstream movies to address AIDS, homophobia and homosexuality, director Jonathan Demme asked Springsteen to write a song for the soundtrack, hoping the Boss's contribution would broaden the film's audience. Up to the task, Springsteen studied the film's scenes and wrote this 1994 song from the point of view of an AIDS patient. The stark lyrics describe a "bruised and battered" man wasting away, who can't even recognize himself in the mirror.
After her friend and former roommate died of AIDS-related complications in 1986, Madonna organized an AIDS benefit concert in which audience members were given a comic book describing how you could and could not get AIDS. This song, from her 1992 'Erotica' album, was inspired by the roommate, Martin Burgoyne, as well as her mentor Christopher Flynn, who also died as a result of the disease.
Long involved in the fight against AIDS, John was one of the "friends" in Dionne Warwick & Friends (along with Warwick, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder) and a close friend to AIDS victims Ryan White and Freddie Mercury. In this 1992 song, a man dying of AIDS complications makes peace with his father about his sexuality. Like Michael Jackson's 'Gone Too Soon,' this was dedicated to White, the Indiana teen who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion.
Karin and Blair Donnan were married in 1987 despite Blair's HIV diagnosis two months earlier. Before his death in 1989, Blair asked his wife to speak publicly about the ignorance surrounding AIDS. After watching 'A Promise Kept,' a documentary about the couple, McLachlan was inspired to write this 1994 song about them.
By the late '80s, the AIDS scare had inspired several songs about safe sex, including Janet Jackson's 'Let's Wait Awhile,' Kool Moe Dee's 'Go See the Doctor' and Carrie McDowell's 'Casual Sex.' But this one, released in 1986, is considered the first. Sadly, Stewart himself would die of AIDS-related complications in 1997 at age 39.
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This R&B trio often preached about safe sex, going so far as to hand out free condoms at its shows. "We spend thousands of dollars on condoms in a week," the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes once told the Chicago Sun-Times. This hugely successful 1995 song for TLC includes a verse about a man who has casual sex -- his "waterfall" -- and can't understand why he gets ill.
For most people, mention of New York's annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade conjures images of dancers, artists and circus performers. But for Reed it conjures ghosts. In this 1989 song, Reed recounts the names of parade characters whose voices won't be heard next time due to AIDS.
Whenever he performed this song live after its 1995 release, Coolio made it a point to rattle off statistics about AIDS and HIV, quickly quieting once enthused crowds. Then he'd end his informative talk with this advice: "Ladies, if he don't got no condom, he don't get none." The song sampled Kool and the Gang, using their 1980 hit 'Too Hot' as a metaphor for HIV infection.
After visiting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and St. Clare's Hospital, which housed HIV-positive prisoners in New York, Spearhead lead singer Michael Franti said he realized two things: More money was needed to fight AIDS, and people needed to be tested for the disease. In this jazzy 1994 song, the narrator does the right thing -- he gets tested so he won't infect his lover -- but at the same time, he worries about the results while reflecting on past partners.