New Yorkers sing ‘Lean on Me’ to honor essential workers during coronavirus pandemic

The screen of the Hard Rock Cafe is illuminated in blue as part of the "Light It Blue" initiative to honor healthcare workers, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, New York, U.S. April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Aleksandra Michalska

(Reuters) – It starts as it has around the world with people leaning out of windows and standing on balconies clapping, cheering and banging pots and pans to honor essential workers still operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

And then a rousing collective rendition of the Bill Withers 1972 song “Lean on Me” begins.

“It’s amazing,” said Robert Hornsby, director of fundraising at the Peace of Heart Choir non-profit in New York City, after he had finished playing the song from his window in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“The amount of energy that we’ve received, and the amount of energy that we’re giving, has really lifted the spirits of New Yorkers, and we hope people across the nation, too.”

Organizers of the “New York Sings Along” event said the goal was to boost morale and honor all workers on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and to share the healing power of music while obeying social distancing rules.

Every week, the nonprofit picks one song, and plays it after the applause for essential workers on Thursday nights.

Last week, it was Frank Sinatra’s “New York” and next week, it will be the Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me.”

U.S. coronavirus deaths have topped 48,000, with the number of lives lost in April rising by an average of 2,000 a day, according to a Reuters tally.

Withers, a soulful singer best known for the 1970s hits “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” passed away at the age of 81 from heart complications, his family had said earlier this month.

(Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska, Editing by Karishma Singh and Michael Perry)

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