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Human Rights Now!
Tour by Amnesty International
Start date 2 September 1988
End date 15 October 1988
Legs 1
Shows 20
Amnesty International benefit events chronology
A Conspiracy of Hope
Human Rights Now!
The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball
Bruce Springsteen tour chronology
Tunnel of Love Express
Human Rights Now!
"Other Band" Tour

Human Rights Now! was a worldwide tour of 20 benefit concerts on behalf of Amnesty International that took place over six weeks in 1988. Held not to raise funds but to increase awareness of Amnesty and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the shows featured Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N'Dour.



The tour was conceived by the Executive Director of Amnesty International's U.S. section, Jack Healey and producer Martin Lewis, who had first recruited rock musicians to work with Amnesty years before for The Secret Policeman's Balls series of benefits.[1][2] The tour was promoted by famed rock promoter Bill Graham, who had also worked with Healey and Lewis on Amnesty's shorter, United States-only tour in 1986, titled A Conspiracy of Hope. Healey served as Executive Producer. Charles Fulwood, Communications Director for Amnesty International USA, served as media director for the tour — executing the strategies devised by Healey and Lewis.[3]

Like most such ventures there were problems that had to be surmounted. The tour's main sponsor withdrew just weeks before the start of the tour. This motivated Sting and others to solicit a sponsor themselves; new sponsorship was eventually secured from Reebok International and the tour was announced in April, with Sting and Gabriel as the headlining acts. Jackson Browne and Robert Cray were also at the initial announcement but in the end did not participate. Springsteen joined later, announcing his role during a July radio broadcast of a concert of his in Stockholm, Sweden.

There were also dilemmas about some of the countries and venues. Certain concerts were planned for remote locations. In some cases host governments were not happy to have the touring superstars preaching freedom and democracy in their backyard. Among Communist countries, Healey was only able to get into Hungary. Concert-goers in the developed nations purchased tickets for the shows. Most concerts in the Third World were free of charge.

In the final event, the tour did indeed go to places rarely if ever visited by Western popular music acts, including India and Equatorial Africa. E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons would later say that being in Africa and seeing black people literally everywhere he went was a revelation.


Opening stages of the 19 September show at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium.
Human Rights Now! Tour booklet

Guest artists

Musician and longtime human rights activist Joan Baez opened the three U.S. dates. Roy Orbison appeared with Springsteen at the Oakland show. Ravi Shankar played a set at the New Delhi show. George Dalaras sang as a guest artist at the Athens concert. Claudio Baglioni played in the Turin concert. In Paris it was Michel Jonasz on the French guest Star. Jorge Gonzalez of Los Prisioneros sang along with Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman during one of the concerts. Local star Oliver Mtukudzi played the opening set at the Harare concert. The Canadian dates were opened by k.d. lang. In Montreal, the guest artists were Michel Rivard and Daniel Lavoie. León Gieco and Charly García opened the Buenos Aires show. Milton Nascimento performed in the Brazilian concert, with Pat Metheny as a special guest. During the Hungarian concert Hobo Blues Band, a local band had a 40-minute part and Bródy János, a pol-beat singer sang a song. In Spain, the guest group was the Spanish group El Último de la Fila. In Costa Rica, the guest performer was Guadalupe Urbina.

Musical themes

Lighters came out for songs such as Peter Gabriel's "Biko" that amplified the themes of the tour.

Each show began and ended with a group performance of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", and before that closer, a Springsteen-led group rendition of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom".

The tour artists generally arranged their individual sets around themes of politics, freedom, and courage; Gabriel previewed the eerie "Of These, Hope" from his upcoming Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ. Springsteen seemed less sure of his approach and peppered his set with standard concert favourites like "Cadillac Ranch" and "Glory Days".

Tour artists also played some on each others' material. Sting sideman Branford Marsalis played with N'Dour; Gabriel, Springsteen, and E Streeter Nils Lofgren joined Sting's set at times; Tracy Chapman sang the Kate Bush part on Gabriel's "Don't Give Up", while N'Dour reprised his role on "In Your Eyes"; and Sting took a verse of Springsteen's "The River", while his keyboardist David Sancious staged a mini-reunion with the E Street Band on other numbers. (As it happened, these were the last regular shows the E Street Band would play for more than a decade.) Baez led the Oakland audience in a verse of "Happy Birthday to You" to Springsteen, who had turned thirty-nine the day of the show; the two then performed a duet on Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind".

Highlights of the final Buenos Aires show were shown on HBO and broadcast on Westwood One radio.


  1. ^ Gundersen, Edna, "Big show, big impact? Live Earth hopes so", 4 July 2007
  2. ^ "Benchmark benefits through the years", 4 July 2007
  3. ^ Henke, James, "Human Rights Now!: Official Book of the Amnesty International World Concert Tour", Bloomsbury Publishing, 1 December 1988 (ISBN 0747503184)



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