GREENSBORO — More than a year in the making, an album recorded by local musicians has been released to benefit United Way efforts to fight poverty.
The “Artists United to End Poverty” album dropped at midnight on Amazon Music, Google Play and iTunes.
All sale proceeds will go to United Way of Greater Greensboro to help end local poverty.
To mark the occasion, album producer Andreao “Fanatic” Heard united singers on Thursday night to perform an album song, “Die 4 Love.”
They opened the “Songs for Hope & Justice” concert that helped to launch this weekend’s N.C. Folk Festival.
Written by Heard and Hickory artist Andre Fenix, “Die 4 Love” is in the vein of “We Are the World,” the 1985 song recorded by superstar musicians that raised millions of dollars for humanitarian aid in Africa and the United States.
For $3.99, buyers can get that song and more.
It features 51 tracks: songs in a variety of genres, interspersed with interludes of spoken word and music.
A public party tonight at the Elm Street Lounge will celebrate the album’s release.
Credit the idea to Heard, a Grammy Award-winning music producer. Heard, who founded the local nonprofit The Culture Pushers, partnered with United Way to produce the album.
He brought together talented local artists, community leaders, activists and people in poverty to record the tracks.
“I felt compelled to get involved because I know the power of music and how it can help address social issues that exist in the community,” Heard said in a news release.
United Way hopes to sell 15,000 units by Sept. 13 to chart the Billboard Top 100, said Michael Cottingham, vice president of marketing and communications.
There is talk of a deluxe edition on CD and vinyl for Christmas.
The album features original material in genres such as country, gospel, pop, R&B and hip-hop. Artists donated their songs, but will retain publishing rights.
Presenting “Die 4 Love” on the album is a group that includes Mayor Nancy Vaughan, gospel artist John P. Kee, The Hamiltones, and the Rev. Bryan Pierce and the gospel choir at his Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Among those singing on the album are Greensboro native Shelby Johnson, better known as Shelby J., who toured for years with Prince; Sybil Lynch Newman, who goes by Sybil, an R&B and pop recording artist who graduated from N.C. A&T, and singer/songwriters Laurelyn Dossett and Vanessa Ferguson, a finalist on the NBC singing competition “The Voice” in 2017.
Those recording interludes between songs included Josephus Thompson III, a spoken-word artist, educator and entertainer, as well as community activists and people affected by poverty.
Michelle Gethers-Clark, local United Way president, recorded the introduction.
Heard said he hopes to sell enough albums to put “a huge dent” in the poverty that plagues the city.
In Greensboro, nearly 20% of the population lives below the federal poverty threshold, which is $25,750 for a family of four. One in four children live in poverty.
Heard said he also hopes that “we all gain a better understanding of the multiple aspects of poverty and that it directly and indirectly affects us all. Many of us are living in poverty and don’t even realize it, especially music and visual artists.”
He wants record labels and publishing companies to learn about talented local unsigned artists, he said, “and offer deals and situations so we can create industry and artists won’t feel compelled to move to New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta to have a sustainable career in music.”