After Newman's "Louisiana 1927," U2 joined with Mary J. Blige for the rock band's anthem "One."
"Tonight let's show people on the Gulf Coast that they have friends all over the world, friends who care, who understand and are there to give them shelter from the storm," said comic Ellen DeGeneres, who was raised in New Orleans.
The hour-long appeal was an echo of a somber event held four years ago to benefit victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, with the same producer.
ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB — the six biggest broadcast networks — aired it along with several cable networks. Viewers in nearly 100 countries were able to tune in.
Contributions were being solicited for the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
Chris Rock, Jennifer Aniston and Jack Nicholson were among the performers who signed up to ask for contributions.
It's the most high-profile of several such televised benefits. BET was also appealing for help Friday for victims of a tragedy that struck the black community hard, and MTV planned its own concert for Saturday.
NBC stations televised an appeal last week, marked by rapper Kanye West's off-script comment that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." West was on the bill for Friday's multi-network event.
The BET benefit was hipper and more heart-breaking. It interspersed musical performances with film clips of Gulf Coast residents asking for help to locate missing relatives and friends.
Alicia Keys sang her hit "If I Ain't Got You," and Patti LaBelle sang the Pretenders song "I'll Stand By You."
It was also a little looser: Comic Steve Harvey introduced rappers Jay-Z and Diddy, only to be told they hadn't arrived yet. Fifteen minutes later they did and made it worthwhile, presenting a $1 million check to the Red Cross from the New York hip-hop community.
"There's been a lot of telethons," Diddy said, "but this is our telethon. These are our people."