Music History: USA for Africa's 'We Are the World'
Thursday, 09 February 2012 03:28
The global hit, “We are the World,” made music history when it was first recorded in 1985 as a charity single written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. The record sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and featured 45 prominent artists billed as USA for Africa. The groundbreaking recording raised over $63 million for humanitarian relief across Africa.
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me
Released on March 7, 1985, "We Are the World" was a huge commercial success, and it topped music charts throughout the world, becoming the fastest-selling American pop single in history. It was also the first ever single to be certified multi-platinum.
"To get two artists in a room is to invite chaos," organizer Harry Belafonte said in a newspaper interview a few years ago. "But here you are with dozens of the best and most powerful artists in popular culture, who had relegated their managers to a place in Siberia — and as a consequence, it was completely art on art."
There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
"You know, when you start something like this, you don't know what's going to happen — you never do," Quincy Jones said in the same newspaper interview. "One by one as they came in, they started to see each other, and they couldn't believe it. When I think about that night, I get goose bumps."
The stars who sang solos were, in order, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jurreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Logins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Michael Jackson (again), Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper and Kim Carnes. Bob Dylan and Ray Charles ad-libbed some vocals that made it on. Singers in the chorus who did not get solos include Belafonte, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, LaToya Jackson, Billy Joel, Bob Geldof, Sheila E. and Waylon Jennings.
On Feb. 1, 2010, the 25th anniversary of the recording of “We are the World,” Haitian musician Wyclef Jean collaborated with the original producers and re-recorded the popular song, but this time to aid survivors of Haiti’s devastating 7.0 earthquake and to help rebuild Haiti. The 25th anniversary recording featured more than 80 artists and performers.
We can't go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of God's great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need
"Twenty-five years ago, the entertainment industry showed the power of community to help our fellow man when we recorded ‘We Are The World’ to bring relief to those suffering from famine in Ethiopia," Jones said on the website http://wearetheworldfoundation.org/the-song. "And while the need to assistant Africa continues, today the country of Haiti is suffering immeasurably from the destruction due to the recent earthquake and is in immediate need of relief that will last long after the television cameras have left. As artists, we have joined together on this 25th anniversary and in the spirit of ‘We Are The World’ to help meet that need."
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