Dark Was the Night (album)Dark Was the Night is the twentieth compilation release benefiting the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. Featuring exclusive recordings by a number of independent artists and production by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, the compilation was released on 16 February 2009 (UK) and 17 February (US) as a double CD, three vinyl LPs, and as a digital download. John Carlin, the founder of the Red Hot Organization, was the executive producer for the album. The title is derived from the Blind Willie Johnson song "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground", which is covered on this collection by the Kronos Quartet.
John Carlin and Aaron Dessner approached Martin Mills and Richard Russell of Beggars Group with the idea for the album. Their selection of artists to include was an attempt to "capture this musical renaissance, which may not have the cultural impact of grunge or punk, but is equally significant from a cultural and creative standpoint...these artists are not fringe or marginal." The American folk roots of the compilation are acknowledged in the title and exemplified by tracks such as the cover of Bob Dylan's "I Was Young When I Left Home". Production of the album was focused on supporting the Red Hot Organization, as Dessner says "a lot of the artists wouldn't take the money...Beggars agreed to be really transparent about how it's done, so as much money flows to the charity side as possible."
As of May 2012, Dark Was the Night has raised over $1.6 million, a sum that represents all the profits from worldwide sales. John Carlin acknowledged the reason for the album's success, saying "Dark Was the Night encapsulated the spirit and creativity of a new generation of musicians whose work struck a chord and got people to actually purchase the album and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight AIDS."
On May 3, 2009 4AD and Red Hot produced Dark Was the Night — Live, a concert commemorating the newest Red Hot album. The show took place at Radio City Music Hall and featured several of the artists that contributed to the compilation including Dave Sitek, Dirty Projectors, Feist, My Brightest Diamond, The National, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings plus more.