Sting and Billy Joel feature as music of 9/11 profiled on Soundtracks: Songs That Defined History

Billy Joel
Sting was in Italy when the attack occurred, and decided to perform Fragile

On tonight’s CNN’s Soundtracks: Songs that Defined History, we see how a nation was helped to heal after 9/11 — with some help from the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel.

The episode opens with a chilling recollection and tearful remembrance by British musician Sting, who was in Italy when the attacks happened.

He convenes with his band and decides that they will perform, and does a stripped down version of Fragile.

The footage is haunting and reveals how this attack not only jolted Americans to their core but much of the world, too.

Lower Manhattan was in flames, and people ambled in shock as the media gave the rest of the world the missing pieces, the news as it was.

But in New York, the reality was white hot sharp pain. The musicians and artists of the city took action to help raise money for victims, and use the emotion of the injury to create art.

Music was the contextual salve that helped diverse communities of people come together and process the tragic events.

British artists like Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Mick Jagger joined the best of the USA and Joel, who put on a 2001 Madison Square Garden concert for the police, the firefighters and the first responders who gave their all that day, those lucky to survive it.

During that event, it was the classic Joel ballad ‘New York State of Mind’ which took on a profound meaning in the wake of the attack.

It also sent Joel into a deep depression, according to a 2013 interview with the New York Times.

Billy Joel’s 2001 performance of New York State of Mind was one for the ages, and meant the world to the audience

Tonight’s episode will feature Joel, Paul Simon, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Nile Rogers, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and Brooks & Dunn.

It will also include Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and other musicians whose work helped people through the worst days, including commentary by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The performance included of Paul Simon at the 10th anniversary is stunning in its low-key simplicity.

Simon’s stripped down Sounds of Silence will stop you in your tracks

The documentary will also show the dark flip side of censorship and creative bullying that the Dixie Chicks experienced for voicing criticism of then President George Bush’s war policy.

This one will gut you.

Soundtracks: Songs That Defined History airs tonight at 10pm ET on CNN.

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