World AIDS Day: 6 Songs Of Remembrance


December 1st is World AIDS Day, an annual remembrance of those who died of the disease and a day to raise awareness about prevention.

Several talented music artists have succumbed to AIDS-related illnesses, including Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, CCR’s Tom Fogerty, Level 42 guitarist Alan Murphy, rapper Eazy-E, R&B singer Jermaine Stewart, and disco star Sylvester.

Erasure’s Andy Bell, Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman Holly Johnson, pop singer Paul Lekakis and Canadian R&B singer Billy Newton-Davis have publicly revealed they are HIV-positive.

Others have been inspired to write and record songs about people lost to AIDS.

Madonna’s “In This Life," from her 1992 album Erotica, was inspired by the death of singer Martin Burgoyne and dancer Christopher Flynn from AIDS-related illnesses. “Some say that life isn’t fair / I say that people just don’t care,” Madonna sang. “They’d rather turn the other way / While we wait for this thing to go away.”

The late George Michael wrote 1995’s “Jesus to a Child” in memory of his partner Anselmo Feleppa, who died of an AIDS-related brain hemorrhage a few years earlier. Michael sang: “I’m blessed I know / Heaven sent and heaven stole.”

Included on TLC’s 1994 album CrazySexyCool, "Waterfalls" is recognized as the first No. 1 song to refer to HIV. “One day he goes and takes a glimpse in the mirror / but he doesn't recognize his own face / His health is fading and he doesn't know why / Three letters took him to his final resting place.”

According to UNAIDS, 650,000 people worldwide succumbed to the disease last year last year.

On the Elton John AIDS Foundation website, the singer is quoted as saying: “No one should suffer from stigma, fear or lack of access to treatment anymore. Everyone deserves the right to a healthy life.”

In 1985, John teamed up with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight for a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager song “That’s What Friends Are For,” which raised millions of dollars for AIDS research.

Annie Lennox and Bono are among the artists who have also used music to raise money in the global fight against the disease.

To mark World AIDS Day, here are six songs about, or for, people who died of AIDS-related illnesses.

“Together Again” – Janet Jackson

This track from Jackson’s 1997 album The Velvet Rope was inspired by a friend the singer lost to AIDS and was dedicated to others who lost loved ones. Co-written by James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr., it’s a celebration of life. “Everywhere I go / Every smile I see / I know you are there / Smilin back at me,” Jackson sings. “ Dancin’ in moonlight / I know you are free / Cuz I can see your star / Shinin down on me.”

“Hold On” – Sarah McLachlan

The Canadian singer is said to have written “Hold On” after learning about a woman whose fiancé was diagnosed with AIDS. “I lie awake and pray / That you’ll be strong tomorrow / And we’ll see another day,” she sings.

“Il Adore” – Boy George

This song from the Culture Club singer’s 1995 solo album Cheapness and Beauty was written about a mother whose gay son dies of AIDS. “Here in this cold white room / Tied up to these machines/ It’s hard to imagine him as he used to be,” he sings. “Laughing, screaming tumbling queen / Like the most amazing light show you’ve ever seen.”

“The Last Song” – Elton John

Included on his 1992 album The One, this emotional song co-written with Bernie Taupin is about an estranged father reconnecting with his son, who is living with AIDS. “I can’t believe you love me / I never thought you’d come,” John sings. “I guess I misjudged love / Between a father and his son.”

“Gone Too Soon” – Michael Jackson

This song about loss was first performed by Dionne Warwick on a TV special in early 1983. A decade later, Michael Jackson recorded a version as a tribute to Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1990, and released it on World AIDS Day. “Like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye / Gone too soon,” Jackson sings. "Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright / Here one day, one one night.” 

“One Sweet Day” – Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men

Mariah Carey has said this 1995 ballad, which she wrote with Boyz II Men and Walter Afanasieff, was inspired by those no longer with us – including friends she lost to AIDS. “I know you’re shining down on me from heaven / Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way,” they sing. “And I know eventually we’ll be together / One sweet day.”

This is an updated version of an article that was previously published.

Artist Radio

Listen to music from Janet Jackson & others