Springsteen, performing from the telethon's New York studio, preceded his performance by saying that he was offering up "a small prayer for Haiti." "We Shall Overcome" has its roots in early-20th-century gospel songs and spirituals of the Civil War era, and it was brought to prominence in the 1940s by American folk-music pioneer Pete Seeger. "Overcome" later became a major part of the soundtrack to the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, with President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoting its title in speeches; Joan Baez performed "We Shall Overcome" during the 1963 March on Washington where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Springsteen's delicately picked guitar, an accordion, a muted trumpet and a chorus of backup singers made for a reverent, yet hopeful performance. His own relationship with "We Shall Overcome" stretches back to 1997, when he covered the song for Where Have All the Flowers Gone, a two-disc tribute to Seeger's work. In 2006, Springsteen released an album-length tribute to the folk icon's legacy, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
Springsteen's performance came early in the two-hour telethon, after appearances by Coldplay, who performed their 2005 song "A Message" from London, and Alicia Keys, who played a solo piano version of her 2007 track "Prelude to a Kiss" in Los Angeles.
Learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Visit HopeForHaitiNow.org or call (877) 99-HAITI to make a donation now. iTunes customers can exclusively pre-order the "Hope for Haiti Now" full-performance album ($7.99) and the full two-hour video telecast ($1.99). Pre-orders will be delivered in the days following the telethon. Individual audio performances will also be available for purchase and download for 99 cents each in the days following the telethon. Apple, the record labels and the artists will donate their share of the proceeds to Haiti relief funds managed by "Hope for Haiti Now" charities, including the Red Cross and Wyclef's Yele Haiti foundation. Performances will also be available for purchase in the days following the event through Amazon's MP3 service and Rhapsody, through distribution provided by INgrooves.