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Playing For Change


Four years ago while Marc Johnson walked down the street in Santa Monica, California the voice of Roger Ridley singing « Stand by Me » was heard from a block away. His voice, soul and passion set us on a course around the world to add other musicians to his performance. This song transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals to a global movement for peace and understanding. This track features over 35 musicians collaborating from all over the world. They may have never met in person, but in this case, the music does the talking.

Web page Episode 2 « Stand by Me » from Web Site Playing For Change
Music is the best way to fight prejudice


Marc Johnson is a sound engineer and music producer, and co-founder of Playing For Change.

Our belief is that the outdoors is the most natural environment for music. In street performances there are no barriers between the musician and the audience: no stage, no tickets, no security, no door etc. So we decided to travel around the world to document as many of these street performances as we could.

A lot in life is just about showing up. In the beginning we would save up enough money to get plane tickets and just show up somewhere and meet musicians. Then other contacts came through word of mouth, people telling their friends or directing us towards other musicians. It was all very organic. Sometimes I would research on the internet to find all sorts of different styles and instruments, and try to bring them together.

For the « Stand by Me » video, it all started with our recording of Roger Riddley in Santa Monica, California. We asked him if we could record his performance and use it in a worldwide project, and he looked at us as if we were crazy but said go ahead. We used his performance as a basis for what other musicians heard and played over.

I think the project can promote peace in the world because whoever hears these songs realises that the peoples of the earth should focus on their connections instead of their differences. I want to use music as a door-opener, to show people that before we were different, we were all connected in the same human race. Then we created our differences, so we can easily create our connections. I think music is the best way of showing how men can overcome their differences to unite their voices.

YouTube has allowed us to spread our project and music much further and faster than at the beginning, and also allowed all the musicians who participated in the projects to see the final results. We have even brought together nine of them from across the world to participate in benefit concerts for our foundation, which aims to build music schools in impoverished areas and connect them with webcams so children from South Africa, for example, could learn music with a child, say, from Nepal. Hearing other voices at such an early stage would do away with much of the prejudice and stereotypes that caused so much harm today.

So far the foundation has built just one school but we have plans for many others. Just like the « Stand by Me » video begins by one guy and his guitar, the playing for change foundation beins with one school that will eventually be connected with many others across the world.


Marc Johnson
« A Change Is Gonna Come » by Playing For Change Band
This performance demonstrates what happens when some of the musicians from « Stand by Me » meet and perform for the first time. This song was recorded and filmed live in New Orleans, and features Grandpa Elliot and Clarence Bekker on vocals. Thousands of people witness first hand the soul and conviction of two men who make us all believe a change is going to come.
« War/No More Trouble » byr Playing For Change
Web Site   Playing For Change
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