"In spring 2005 Tracy Gershon, a Nashville record producer and judge on the country talent show 'Nashville Star,' resolved to do something to support the New Mexico ranch where Don Imus and his family play host to children with cancer.
And so she and another producer, Kyle Lehning, traveled to the ranch with a pitch for Mr. Imus: they offered to assemble a benefit album featuring some of his favorite artists, with each performing cover versions of songs he would choose. In short order, Ms. Gershon secured commitments from Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Big & Rich, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis and Lucinda Williams, among many others. A record label, New West, agreed to put out the CD and to donate the proceeds to the charity, the Imus Ranch.
But just as the project was nearing completion in spring 2007, Mr. Imus was fired from his radio show and its simulcast on MSNBC over a racist and sexist exchange that got as much play on YouTube as Big & Rich typically get on Country Music Television.
Which put Ms. Gershon and New West in a jam. After the dust settled that summer, Ms. Gershon dutifully polled the artists to ask whether they wished to continue to associate themselves with Mr. Imus. Not one backed out. Indeed, several more signed on, including Little Richard, who said he specifically wanted to debunk the notion of Mr. Imus as a racist.
In an interview this week Mr. Gill articulated what would turn out to be the consensus of the singers and producers regarding Mr. Imus, who, they felt, had leavened his obvious mistake with good works, both before his firing and since.
'Everybody says stuff they regret, that they shouldn’t say, trying to be flippant, trying to be funny,' Mr. Gill said. 'We live in such an age now that the persecution is far greater than the words ever were.'"
-- Jacques Steinberg, giving us some background on The Imus Ranch Record, for the New York Times.