NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Singer and actor Harry Connick Jr. has spent a lot of his life on tour buses and traveling from city to city, but even when the pandemic shut down the country, he couldn’t sit still.
With the help of his daughter, Georgia Connick, who is a filmmaker, and a bunch of GoPro cameras, he embarked on a pandemic road trip to meet essential workers around the country who were risking their lives during the pandemic.
“United We Sing: A Grammy Tribute to the Unsung Heroes,” a TV special that airs on CBS on Sunday at 8pm ET/PT, highlights the everyday heroes along his journey to New Orleans, with help from Connick’s celebrity pals including Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock and Renee Zellweger. The show also features musical performances from Jamie Foxx, Cyndi Lauper, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews, Tim McGraw, Irma Thomas and more.
“I just want to reach out and meet some of these folks, sanitation workers or elementary school teachers or people that are working at food banks,” said Harry Connick. “These are the people that are keeping the supply chain going and keeping our lives going.”
Over the course of about 12 days, Georgia Connick filmed her father on handheld cameras or GoPros as he drove a recreational vehicle to learn about how the new coronavirus was affecting workers in public transportation, grocery stores, health care and more.
“Watching these people do their everyday jobs, not necessarily thinking they’re heroes, but everyone else thinking they are heroes, is very incredible,” said Georgia Connick.
They started their trip at a hospital in the Queens borough of New York City, where Connick’s sister, an Army Reserve colonel and psychiatrist, helped with the Pentagon’s response to the pandemic.
“It was highly emotional,” said Harry Connick. “We wanted to do a show that was about celebration as opposed to constantly reminding people of how sad the situation is. And it is. But there’s a lot of silver linings.”
Once reaching his hometown of New Orleans, Harry Connick walked through the empty streets of Bourbon Street, the neon-lit entertainment hotspot normally filled with music, drinking and dancing that had gone quiet during the pandemic.
“The mayor was kind enough to let us film on Bourbon Street under very, very tight circumstances and conditions,” he said.
Instead of the traditional second line parade, the dancers and musicians stayed 12 feet apart, dancing in place with masks.
“We hope when people watch on Sunday night, they’ll kind of have a respite from the normal barrage of bad news,” he said.
The special will raise funds for charities that support underserved children, including No Kid Hungry and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans, as well as to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, a charitable organization of the Recording Academy.