After two years of outreach, the vintage Fairlight CMI keyboard autographed by 44 artists received a winning bid of $100,000 at the Witness Focus for Change Benefit Dinner and Concert in New York City on December 11, 2006. Proceeds from the winning bid will be dedicated to Witness, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to use video technology to expose human rights violations around the world.
The benefit dinner and concert was held at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, and was co-hosted by Witness founder Peter Gabriel and actor Gael Garcia Bernal. The event featured performances by Paul Simon, Angelique Kidjo, and Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of the B-52’s.
The keyboard was autographed by artists who brought the instrument to prominence in the 1980s, including David Bowie, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox, Steve Winwood, Mark Knopfler and Sir George Martin. The Fairlight CMI was the world’s first digital sampler and featured other radical advances for the time, including a light-pen interface and menu-driven GUI. It was used in numerous hits from the 1980s, including Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” “Thriller” by Michael Jackson and Hancock’s “Rockit.”
“The generosity of 44 Fairlight users to sign the CMI keyboard speaks to the importance of bringing human rights violations to the surface,” says Fairlight CEO John Lancken. “It is an honor to have played an integral role in raising money for the Witness cause, and Fairlight is proud that the CMI keyboard not only symbolizes a pivotal era in the history of rock 'n' roll, but has now taken on an even greater significance.”
“As an organization focused on the use of technology to bring about worldwide change, Witness applauds the remarkable steps Fairlight has taken to support our cause through its own technological innovations,” says Gillian Caldwell, director of Witness. “The impact of the Fairlight CMI on the music industry, and the recognition of that impact by the world’s most influential musicians, has translated into a major donation towards the fight to end human rights abuses.”