U2's The Edge Launches Guitar Icons Auction to Benefit Music Rising: 'We're Very Excited'

The auction will benefit Music Rising, an organization started by The Edge and music producer Bob Ezrin to help out self-employed musicians and music students in New Orleans

The Edge of U2 performs at the Gocheok Sky Dome on December 08, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea
The Edge. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images/Courtesy Music Rising

If you've ever dreamed of rocking out like U2 or strumming the same guitar strings Paul McCartney once played, you're in luck.

Thanks to a charity auction organized by The Edge and legendary music producer Bob Ezrin, the co-founders of the organization Music Rising, dozens of instruments played by the likes of The Edge, Bono, McCartney, Elton John and more are all up for sale — for a good cause.

"We're very excited about the positive impact that this can have," The Edge, 60, tells PEOPLE of the upcoming Guitar Icons: A Musical Instrument Auction to Benefit Music Rising, which will take place on Dec. 11 starting at 10 a.m. PT.

The Irish rocker (né David Evans) and Ezrin founded Music Rising together in 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the New Orleans area, destroying local musicians' precious instruments and putting thousands out of work.

He explains that the financial impact for self-employed musicians is "pretty intense" and that there are few programs designed to help them, which is why Music Rising has dedicated itself to providing aid to musicians and music students both in the Gulf Region and across the United States.

The Edge
The Edge. Louis van Baar

The struggle for self-employed musicians was only worsened by the COVID pandemic, and many were left "very vulnerable," having to survive week-to-week on an average income of $26,000, he says. With that in mind, he and Ezrin developed plans for the auction more than a year ago, "when the worst of the pandemic had really become obvious to us."

"We've very excited about the prospect of raising a lot of money, which would go to help these musicians to get back to work," he says. "Replace maybe the equipment they've had to sell to put food on the table, to encourage them to not change their occupations, which I'm sure would be a possible way out for them."

The auction will take place at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California starting at 10 a.m. PT on Dec. 11, and will also stream live via various auction platforms all available here.

Some of the many instruments for sale include The Edge's 2005 limited edition Gibson Les Paul Music Rising guitar, Paul McCartney's tour and studio-played left-handed "Wings" Yamaha BB-1200 electric bass guitar, Bono's custom Gibson ES-175 electric guitar, and Elton John's signed and concert-played Yamaha Motif-8 keyboard.

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Also up for grabs are instruments belonging to Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Lou Reed, Slash, Noel Gallagher, Bob Ezrin, Lenny Kravitz, Rush's Alex Lifeson, Adam Clayton, Alice Cooper, Eddie Vedder, Paul Stanley, Vince Gill, Don Felder, Ronnie Wood, Kings of Leon, Steve Miller, Lzzy Hale, Julian Lennon, Green Day, Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, Flea, Joan Jett, Johnny Marr, Dave Grohl, Tom Morello, Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Zac Brown.

To help show off the goods, The Edge and Music Rising are using an all-new interactive virtual showcase called Ohyay, which he describes as "a much more interactive and immersive" way of taking part in the auction. Virtual visitors can access 360-degree views of the instruments, watch exclusive performances and explore Bourbon Street and more New Orleans landmarks.

"It's probably going to be the first of many such ways to allow fans in in a much more intimate way than just a dry auction catalog," he explains. "You can go on with your friends and go explore what we're doing."

The Edge and Ezrin started Music Rising in 2005 as a means of not only helping local musicians get back on their feet, but also as a way of preserving the New Orleans music culture, which was immeasurably influential upon rock and roll.

"When you come across something as magical and kind of mind-blowing as the music scene in New Orleans, it affects you and it stays with you," he says. "As a musician myself, I'd just never come across anything like this. Bono and I went out after a show, and we saw an 11-year-old trombone shorty, Troy Andrews, performing this little brass funk outfit. And we ended up dancing on the bar until like, 2 in the morning. And we left that place thinking, 'What just happened?' I mean, we'd never seen anything like it before. So that was kind of when I really go the sense that this is like nowhere else in the world in terms of its music culture and the richness of it."

He adds: "I think anybody who's in a rock and roll band owes a debt to New Orleans and to the early, early pioneers of these music forms and to the perseverance… It's one of the great cultural gifts that America has provided to the world, is jazz music."

Now, thanks to the generosity of his friends in the industry, he's doing his part to give back via the auction.

"All of those that have contributed are friends of ours," he says. "And we're just so honored and thankful for the generosity and I think it's going to make a big difference. I think it's going to make a massive impact."

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