By Sanjay Shah
Media and nonprofits frequently accuse celebrities of using worthy causes as thinly veiled excuses to self-promote. While this sort of criticism has a grain of truth attached, it sells short the wonderful work and acts of vast generosity that many truly well-meaning celebrities perform on behalf of those less fortunate than they.
Case in point are the A-list musicians who’ve rallied to support funding for autism research and awareness. Autism, a far-reaching and little-understood disorder that affects millions of children and adults around the world, is a cause celebre for some of the world’s biggest musical acts.
‘Their embrace is proof that pop glamour and serious charity work can go hand-in-hand — in actuality, that they’re made for one another.’ – Sanjay Shah
Here’s a look at seven musicians (or groups of musicians) who’ve rallied to support autism-related causes over the past few years.
The temporary Autism Rocks Arena, a 21,000-seater placeholder for a permanent venue set to open in 2018, has played host to some of the biggest names in rock and pop. Few have been bigger — or better received — than Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber, who performed there in 2017. The occasion was a perfect showcase for the reformed bad boy’s Purpose World Tour, and raised thousands of dollars for autism research to boot.
The R&B superstar turned reality TV fixture moonlights as a passionate advocate for autism research. As one of Autism Speaks’s most visible celebrity supporters, she highlighted the cause during a primetime airing of Dancing With the Stars, the American celebrity dance programme.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash have been around for a half century, but they show no signs of slowing down. In their old age, they’ve clearly embraced good works. They’re among the most prominent celebrity supporters of Autism Speaks, most recently headlining the Light Up the Blue concert in Las Vegas. For at least one member, autism is personal: Stephen Stills, a founding member, has a son on the autism spectrum.
Tyga & Flo Rida
Well before Bieber electrified the crowd at the temporary Autism Rocks Arena, Tyga & Flo Rida headlined a ‘family day’ there. The event drew thousands eager to hear the two hip-hop stars in the flesh. Who said hip hop couldn’t be family friendly?
Dreamy singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran just announced a date at the Autism Rocks Arena on November 23, 2017. That would mark his first recorded performance at an autism charity event — though it’s clear from his past charitable endeavours (and his entrancing croon) that the man’s heart is larger than most.
The always edgy, ever-fearless Nicki Minaj inaugurated the temporary Autism Rocks Arena in March 2016. Unlike the following month’s Tyga and Flo Rida event, Minaj’s show wasn’t billed as a ‘family day.’ But that didn’t stop the thousands-strong crowd from having a rollicking good time in support of a worthy cause. In the months since her show-stopping performance, Minaj has been a fervent advocate for autism-affected individuals and the research initiatives that promise to change their lives for the better.
The legendary pop star might be gone forever, but Prince deserves a posthumous mention for his early embrace of Autism Rocks. In fact, Prince was the first artist to ever headline an Autism Rocks gig — a comparatively intimate affair at Cafe de Paris, the legendary London venue, in 2014. Prince didn’t get the chance to perform for Autism Rocks again, but it’s comforting to believe that he’d have had no compunctions about inaugurating the permanent Autism Rocks Arena in 2018.
Do Your Part to Fight Autism
You don’t have to be a pop star to do your part to fight autism.
Autism Rocks began life as a whimsical idea that grew out of a chance conversation. You can think big whilst starting small. Whether you’re organising a fundraising drive at your school or house of worship, or trying to drum up support amongst your friends and colleagues for a charity concert of your own, the most important thing you can do is wear your passion on your sleeve. Your efforts will surely be infectious: once others see that you’re serious about the cause, they’ll rally to your side.
Bio: Sanjay Shah the founder of Autism Rocks, a charitable organisation that raises awareness about autism through charitable music events