“We Are the World” is likely one of the largest charity singles of all-time and for good motive—it was co-penned by two of music’s enduring icons, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. However how did these two heavyweights find yourself penning the all-star observe that raised cash for individuals experiencing starvation and homelessness within the US and Africa?
Origins of the Idea
In a gaggle often called USA For Africa, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Stevie Marvel, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan, Jackson, and Richie are among the many 47 music giants who lend their voices to the tune. However it might have by no means come to fruition had it not been for “The Banana Boat Tune” singer and activist, Harry Belafonte. Belafonte was impressed by the charity tune, “Do They Know It is Christmas?” written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and recorded in 1984 by a number of in style UK acts on the time, together with Bono, James Taylor and Robert Bell of Kool & the Gang, Boy George and Sting, as a profit for famine aid within the impoverished African nation of Ethiopia. Belafonte wished to duplicate the mannequin within the US to profit United Assist of Artists for Africa, a nonprofit created to alleviate starvation throughout the 2 continents.
From there, a domino impact occurred when Belafonte contacted his then-manager, Ken Kragen, who reached out to his shoppers Richie and Kenny Rogers to be part of the initiative. After they signed on, they reached out to Stevie Marvel, who additionally agreed to take part. Including to the facility of the tune was Quincy Jones, who was tapped to be the producer, and contacted Jackson to be part of it. (Jones and Jackson co-produced Jackson’s blockbuster album Thriller). Jackson expressed curiosity to Richie that he wished to assist write the tune, and the 2 labored collectively on the Jackson household house in Los Angeles.
In Lisa Campbell’s e-book, Michael Jackson The King of Pop, Jackson is quoted as saying “I really like working shortly. I went forward with out even Lionel understanding. I could not wait. I went in and got here out the identical evening with the finished tune: drums, piano, strings, and phrases to the refrain.”
“I might go into the room whereas they have been writing and it will be very quiet, which is odd since Michael’s often very cheery when he works,” Jackson’s sister La Toya Jackson recalled in Campbell’s e-book about being current the evening the tune was written . “It was very emotional for them.”
Jackson and Richie accomplished the tune on January 21, 1985, and recording started the following day at Rogers’ studio in LA with greater than 40 artists singing. We’re the world/We’re the kids/We’re those who make a brighter day/So let’s begin giving/There is a alternative we’re making/We’re saving our personal lives/It is true we’ll make a greater day /Simply you and me. Recording concluded on January 28 at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood. The tune was formally launched as a single on March 7, the primary off the album of the identical identify that dropped on April 23.
“We Are the World” was a month-long No. 1 hit on the Billboard Sizzling 100 and in addition topped the R&B Singles chart and Sizzling Grownup Up to date Tracks chart and have become the best-selling single of 1985 and was the primary single to be licensed multi-platinum.
“The tune, the hassle, the trigger…it was significant,” Richie recalled in a video interview on the USA For Africa web site in honor of the tune’s thirtieth anniversary. “It was truly meant to be ‘how can we give again? With all that expertise, what can we do with all of that fame and energy?’ And we determined to make a rustic out of ourselves. And it labored.”
“In 1985, the music business and the world got here collectively in an unprecedented outpouring of generosity in response to the tragic famine wreaking havoc in Africa on the time,” Bellafonte explains of the tune’s affect. “The most important names in music ‘checked their egos on the door’ to create what was and nonetheless is a worldwide phenomenon. The recording of the unique We Are The World bought greater than 7 million data worldwide. The worldwide sale of that report generated greater than $60 million which has been used to help Africa and Africans affected by famine and different important points since 1985. The tune grew to become and stays the individuals’s anthem and continues to be revered and liked globally.”
Twenty-five years after the discharge of “We Are the World,” it was re-recorded after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake decimated Haiti, with greater than 75 musicians collaborating, together with Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett, Mary J. Blige, and Lil Wayne.
Thus far, USA For Africa has raised greater than $100 million to assist individuals impacted by poverty within the US and Africa.
Photograph by FRANCIS Sylvain/AFP through Getty Photographs