Entertainment & Arts

Sir Paul McCartney joins Hillsborough single

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Media captionWatch a clip of the video for the song, which also features Rebecca Ferguson

Sir Paul McCartney has joined the line-up for a charity single supporting the Hillsborough campaign.

The track, which is favourite to be Christmas number one, has had its first play in Liverpool in front of families of victims of the 1989 disaster.

Robbie Williams, former Spice Girl Mel C and Gerry Marsden are among the other stars on the cover of The Hollies' 1969 hit He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

Bookmakers expect it to beat the X Factor winner to the festive top spot.

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans died in a crush at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield during an FA Cup semi final in 1989.

Image caption Sir Paul McCartney provides vocals and a guitar solo

Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James was among them, said listening to the new version was emotional because James had bought her the original on record just three weeks before he died.

"When I was listening to it, to be honest with you, it was sad because I just shut my eyes and I saw my son handing me the record," she said.

"I thought, maybe he's handing me this new version and saying 'listen to this'."

Mrs Aspinall chairs the Hillsborough Family Support Group and said it was important that Sir Paul, who sings and plays guitar on the track, was on board.

"He decided to do it and I think that's lovely because he's from Liverpool, he knows how Liverpool people work and he understands us," she said.

The single release comes after a report found that police officers' statements were altered after the tragedy and up to 41 lives could potentially have been saved if the response of the emergency services had been swifter.

Proceeds from the single, which is released on 17 December, will go towards legal costs in the families' continued fight for justice.

Gerry Marsden, who fronted chart-topping Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers, said: "The original was fantastic so we just hope we did as good a job with his one as The Hollies did with the original.

"I think we have, I think it's a good job. We've all tried very hard to make it a success and it would be nice if it can be in the charts for Christmas."

X Factor star Rebecca Ferguson, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight, Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Holly Johnson and The Clash guitarist Mick Jones are among the other musicians on the recording.

They joined former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, comedian John Bishop and Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram on the line-up, which was put together under the name The Justice Collective by Robbie Williams' former songwriting partner Guy Chambers.

The song is 1/2 favourite to be Christmas number one with bookmakers Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power. Its nearest rival is the eventual X Factor winner at 2/1, according to William Hill and Paddy Power.

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