Skip to main content

Don Dokken talks recording Hear 'n Aid's 'Stars' and the awesome white suit he wore to the sessions

'I knew all the metal guys would be turning up in their black leather jackets, so I wore it to stand out,' he recalls

The mid ‘80s was a highpoint of the mass-artist-sing-along-for-a-cause, from Band Aid’s “Do They Know It's Christmas?” to USA for Africa’s “We Are the World,” to Artists United Against Apartheid's “Sun City.” And in 1986, the hard rock and heavy metal world stepped into that humanitarian space with Hear ‘N Aid, a philanthropic project masterminded by Ronnie James Dio and Dio band members Vivian Campbell and Jimmy Bain.

The result was the single “Stars,” which featured members of Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister, Spinal Tap, Night Ranger and many others rocking for a cause alongside Dio and Co.

Also on board? Dokken members George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Don Dokken, who recently recalled his experiences with Hear ‘n Aid in an interview with Louder Sound.

Regarding how he and his band mates got involved in the project, Dokken said the offer came via a phone called from Dio. “I knew Ronnie forever, our bands had played together many times, and he explained the idea and the fact that the record was for a good cause,” Dokken recalled. “When Ronnie James Dio asks for your help, you go, so myself and George and Jeff signed up immediately. Michael Jackson had already done ‘We Are the World,’ but no one from our world was invited to be a part of that, so it was cool that we could play our part, too.”

As for the memorable white suit he wore to the recording? He explained, “I knew that Rob Halford and Geoff Tate and all the metal guys would be turning up in their black leather jackets, so I wore a white suit to the session to stand out. There’s a documentary charting the making of the record and at one point you can hear Ronnie Dio jokingly say to me, ‘Hey Don, GQ magazine called for you…,’ which kinda reflected the relaxed, good-natured spirit of the day.”

Dokken continued that he “knew everyone there, and truthfully I wasn’t so fond of some of those people, so I didn’t plan upon hanging around all day to watch everyone get drunk, take coke and talk shit: I asked Ronnie for my time slot, and I remember I was booked in to sing at 4 PM, so I turned up at 3 PM, nailed my lines, stuck around for the photo call with all the other musicians, and then headed home. I know there was a proper party afterwards, with like 200 people crammed in to a bar across the street which could maybe hold 80 people, but in those days our lives in Dokken were spent partying, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.”

Overall, Dokken recalled the sessions as a great experience. “It was cool to take part in the Hear ’n Aid record,” he said. “I remember some people acting all shocked that guys in hard rock and heavy metal bands actually cared about anyone but ourselves, like we were all monsters with nothing but drugs, girls and money on our minds. That says more about those people than it does about us. It’s one moment in hard rock history that we can all be proud of."