For a musician with as wildly diverse a career as David Byrne, you would need an eclectic group of performers to pay tribute to him. And fortunately, that’s just what Michael Dorf has done, rounding up a far-ranging cast of musicians to play “The Music of David Byrne & Talking Heads,” a charity concert at Carnegie Hall Monday that’s the 11th and latest of Dorf’s star-studded tribute shows.
100% of the net proceeds for the concert go to music education programs that serve underprivileged youth, a cause near and dear to many of the musicians involved, which partially explains why Dorf’s shows go above and beyond most other charity concert. (Bruce Springsteen showed up to perform the encore at his own show, as did Michael Stipe of REM.)
The evening’s lineup includes The Roots, Steve Earle, Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Glen Hansard of Swell Season, jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, soul legend Sharon Jones and Santigold.
Dorf, who owns City Winery in New York (and who founded NYC mainstay venue The Knitting Factory), has raised over $1 million for charities like Young Audiences New York, Little Kids Rock, Church Street School of Music, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and Grammy in the Schools with his concerts. PEOPLE spoke to Dorf about the process of putting on such a show.
“Each organization is a non-profit, but they’re all doing slightly different work, which is what makes this sort of a mutual fund of charities,” Dorf says.
“I was on the board of an organization called Musics for Youth,” Dorf explains of the series’ origins. “And about 12 years ago there was a call to the board looking for some fundraising. I suggested putting on a show at Carnegie, and oddly – even though most of the people on the board were music industry people – people seemed scared of putting on a show to raise money. So I committed to doing it and said I’d cover any downside. And our first was the music of Joni Mitchell, which started the ball rolling.”
“This is the classic kid in a candy store,” Dorf says of the process of picking honorees and performers. “With 20 acts as my target list of performers – at this point it’s 220 acts who’ve participated – I try to vary the program from year to year, but there’s a little overlap sometimes. Mostly I just pick different and unique people who I know will be able to give exciting, original performances.”
More information about the charities is available at their links above, and be sure to keep an eye out for any performances from the tribute that emerge after the show.