On a music podcast I heard recently they were debating the relevancy of the current Lilith Fair tour. However, that's not so much what inspires this typing now.
The host played some songs from the '90s tour lineup, opening with the current tour "headliner" Sarah McLachlan and her maudlin hit "Angel." Yes, the one that's played under pictures of abused animals in a prevalent TV commercial for the ASPCA in which the singer appears.
That McLachlan used her celebrity to draw attention to a cause about which she cares is admirable, certainly, but by allowing that song—appropriate as the theme is to the plight of the abused animals—to be used in that heart-wrenching ad she has ultimately changed it from whatever association a listener may have had to being solely about those unfortunate animals. When I hear the plaintive vocals of that track, even absent any visuals, the image of those cats and dogs is what springs to my mind.
It hasn't spurred me to donate to that organization (not that I am in any way a supporter of animal abuse) and, to be frank, has inspired in me an overwhelming urge to change the radio station if that song comes on (not that I listen to the radio that much any more).
Even the most laudable of intentions should be seriously contemplated and their potential long-term ramifications considered.
A word of advice to musicians thinking of giving one of your popular songs to a charity: Don't do it. Write them a new song that can be associated exclusively with them. Heck, donate all the money from download sales of that track to the organization. That will be a win-win for all; they get publicity and donations, and you eschew having your altruistic gesture ruin one of your best songs.
I'm not arguing that I'm not a heartless a-hole, by the way.
I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em.
One more thought about donating songs to charities: If you (the artist) feel inclined to put your song in a commercial, try to keep it upbeat. Even if the charity is striving to eliminate some atrocity, putting a downer of a track behind whatever imagery they choose needs some kind of optimistic counter.
Just a thought.