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We Are The World by USA for Africa

Album: released as a singleReleased: 1985Charted:
1
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  • This was a benefit single for victims of famine in Africa. It raised over $60 Million, which was distributed to Ethiopia, Sudan, and other impoverished countries.
  • Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote this song. It was produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. Jones produced Jackson's Thriller album, and Omartian had worked on many hit songs, including Sailing and "She Works Hard For The Money."
  • The USA For Africa project was inspired by Band Aid, the British group Bob Geldof put together the year before to record "Do They Know It's Christmas." Members of Band Aid included Bono, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Sting. The single raised about $8 Million for famine relief.
  • The project began as an idea Calypso singer Harry Belafonte had for a benefit concert featuring black musicians. Lionel Richie's manager, Ken Kragen, liked the idea of releasing a single and contacted Richie about the project, who agreed to help. After Belafonte and Richie, Stevie Wonder was the first star to agree to the project. From there, word got out and many members of the music industry signed on to help.
  • This was recorded on January 28, 1985, the day of the American Music Awards. Since the artists were all in town for the awards, it was much easier to get them together to record the single.
  • The stars who sang solos were, in order, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Logins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Michael Jackson (again), Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, and Kim Carnes. Bob Dylan and Ray Charles were also featured on the song and given close-ups in the video. Singers in the chorus who did not get solos include Belafonte, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, LaToya Jackson, Bob Geldof, Sheila E., and Waylon Jennings.
  • Prince was asked to join the project, be he declined on the grounds that he does not record with other acts. Instead, he donated an exclusive track called "4 The Tears In Your Eyes" to the follow-up benefit album, which was also called "We Are The World."
  • Taping was stopped when musicians complained about Cyndi Lauper making an "annoying noise" - her bracelets were rattling next to the microphone as she was singing. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
  • Quincy Jones was responsible for managing the egos of all the stars. It went very smoothly considering some very famous people did not get to sing a line. Most of the singers knew Jones personally and respected his wishes that they check their egos at the door.
  • Before the session began, Jones decided where everyone would stand. He put tape on the floor with each singer's name on it.
  • Dan Aykroyd was in the chorus. He was a singer in the fictional band The Blues Brothers, but was invited to represent the movie industry.
  • This won Grammys for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
  • The single exceeded expectations in terms of sales. 800,000 copies were originally shipped, and they sold out the first weekend.
  • The recording session took 12 hours. Many of the artists exchanged autographs.
  • As the music world came together in the spirit of giving, Bob Geldof organized Live Aid later that year. Live Aid was a benefit concert held simultaneously in Philadelphia and London. At the Philadelphia concert, Lionel Richie came out and led a performance of this as the last song of the show.
  • Billy Joel (from Rolling Stone magazine, December 15, 2005): "Most of us who were there didn't like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over to me and said, 'It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.' And I didn't disagree."
  • John Oates said of his memories of recording this song: "It was really interesting and unique. Who knows, it may never happen again in history. You have some of the world's greatest singers in one room. We ran the song down once. The next thing you knew they ran the tape back and it was goosebump time. It was an amazing experience."
  • In his verse Willie Nelson misquotes the bible when he sings "As God has shown us by turning stones to bread." Matthew 4 tells us that the devil tried to get Jesus to turn some stones into bread, but the Son of God refused, saying, "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."
  • Huey Lewis was supposed to be just part of the chorus, but he got his line because Prince didn't show up. Describing his good fortune to be part of the project, Lewis said, "I was a lucky son of a bitch to be there. Thank God I had a lot of hit records, because I wouldn't have been there any other way."

    Lewis spent most of the session next to Michael Jackson, whose line came before Huey's. Lewis recalls that Quincy Jones called Jackson "Smelly" because he was always so clean.
  • On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a earthquake, which devastated the country and resulted in a death toll of approximately 200,000. A new version of the song was recorded on February 1, 2010 to raise funds for the stricken Haitians.
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Comments: 31

I greatly appreciate the cause and applaud all involved on that basis. However, if we are being completely honest here, the song is execrable... literally some of the worst music ever committed to vinyl.Ken - Philadelphia, Pa
Yeah, Billy Joel certainly did have a solo and then he harmonized with the fabulous Tina Turner! Dylan would not have been an easy sell, that he appeared must have been a coup, and for the MASSIVE part Ray Charles plays, leading the end of the whole thing, spurring the singers on.Christine - Sacramento, Ca
It's astounding to me that Jones would choose Huey Lewis (who I adore but ...) above Harry Belafonte, who started the whole idea, or the fabulous Bette Midler or Smokey Robinson!Christine - Sacramento, Ca
The Simpsons hilariously spoofed this song with 'Sending Our Love Down the Well' when Bart falls down the well and makes everyone think it's some lovable little boy down there. Krusty the Clown says that when the money comes in, 'Well, we gotta pay for promotion, shipping, distribution, and you know those limos out back? They aren't free. But whatever's left, we throw down the well.'Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
awesome song w/ a calvacade of great artists.....last but not least of all....great GODLY messageRick - Belfast, Me
It is Cheessy...The song makes me Sick :-/David - Lawren, Ma
'the artists didn't give very much of themselves, other than a couple of hours of their time'??
What about MJ's Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star World Record? MJ donated millions of dollars to charity.
Anyway, love the song and I think every effort to give back, small or big, is great!
Stefania - Antwerp, Belgium
When it came to Bob Dylan to sing his part it didn't sound like Dylan. So Ray Charles started to imitate Dylan and said, "That's what you should sound like, Bob!" We all know that Mr. Dylan obeyed - on the record you recognise him at first tone.Martin - Vienna, Austria
A distant third behind "Do They Know it's Christmas" and "Tears are not Enough".Phil - Edmonton, Ab
I think the song holds up pretty well. I still get chills when Springsteen comes in for the first time. What I find interesting is how the intervening 25 years has sorted the true legends from the, well, lounge acts. Anyone seen Jefferey Osborne lately? Sheila E.? James Ingram? I read somewhere that when they were assembling the 'chorus', they took that week's Billboard charts and pulled out 20 artists that were hot right then (Huey Lewis, The Pointer Sisters)to go with their 'Dream Team' of 20 'Legends' (Dylan, Springsteen, MJ, etc.) But I can think of a few artists from that time period that surely deserved an invite: Whiney Houston? Madonna? Don Henley? John Mellencamp? Pat Benatar? Van Halen? Heart? Surely, we could have made room for some of them, right?Bruce - Houston, Ny
There was a day when every (or most) radio stations in America agreed to play "We Are the World" at the same time. If I recall correctly it was on Good Friday at 3:00 p.m. I remember going up and down the dial of my radio and most stations were playing the song. Evan MUZAK played it so it was broadcast to stores, shopping cneters, and elevators, too. This event made the opening lyric "There comes a time" by Lionel Ritchie the first words ever spoken on MUZAK.Mr. Mike - Jonesville, Mi
I heard this song for the first time when I was a teenager. Now, at 42 I still love this song! The melody , lyric, singers and of course the charity spirit it conveys.... Totally lovely and everlasting.Sucitawati - Denpasar, Indonesia
I found the whole thing a bit of a farce. A bunch of rich and successful artists singing about a place they couldn't even point to on a map.

Sean Penn in New Orleans wading chest-deep in filthy water to drag a rescue raft to a stranded family is more my idea of celebrity disaster relief
Dave - Liverpool, United Kingdom
They should actually do this for Darfur, Sudan now
The record album also had a Canadian version called "Tears Are Not Enough" by Northern Lights. Produced by David Foster and featuring Bryan Adams, Neil Young, Anne Murray and many more.
(Celine was just a teen at the time...)
Sara - Silver Spring, Md
There has been talk about doing a remake or something. With the stars who are still active and living plus all the American Idols,Sara - Silver Spring, Md
Prince was invited but was a no-show. He called Quincy hours late and said he would add a guitar part and Quincy declined.Huey Lewis sang his solo.No loss the record is great.Kenneth - Cleveland, Oh
This is an amazing song. I've replayed it on youtube a million and one times.

Bruce Springsteen always puts me to tears at the end when he cries. He's so sexy haha
Kek - Sydney, Australia
Wonderful song with such an important message. One of my all time favorites, I so often play it, everybody home would love to stop doing whatever they're doing and come near the puter to listen. I don't wanna compare it to "Do They Know It's Christmas Time", I just enjoy both of them though "We Are The World" has been in my heart since I first listened to it. Thanks for the facts, I knew some things about the song. It's interesting to find out facts about the recording process and all the stuff connected to the song.
Antonia, Rousse, Bulgaria
Antonia - Rousse, Bulgaria
LOve the song. It's got a good message. I especially like when Bruce Springsteen comes in in the endCaitlin - Upper Township, Nj
Does anyone ever play this on the radio?

Howard Stern pointed out that the only really humorous part of the song was Bob Dylan's solo. He hastened to add that Mr Dylan was clearly sincere and competent, but that it was still funny.
Mark - Lancaster, Oh
i think lindsey buckingham was in thisRick - Humboldt, Ia
a group of Canadian artists performed 'Tears Are Not Enough' around the same time.Don - Newmarket, Canada
I love this song, it sends a much better message to people then Band Aid's 'Do They No It's Christmas'. I like this song because it is has some fantastic singers like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner and there is some fantastic harmonies.Jaelin - Lincolnshire, England
On the VH1 "I Love The 80's" special, Lionel Ritchie joked about Dan Aykroyd being in the chorus: "We needed Dan's voice".Ken - Louisville, Ky
i write this mesage who came straight my heart i live right now in Colorado but my country (TOGO) we really need a help even share with us this hard moment . please if someone who want to help or to see how you can help us e mail me "maxod82@hotmail.com"
God bless us all
Kudjo - Lome-togo, Other
This was a decent song, and did a great job of raising money for famine relief, but I was always bothered by two aspects: 1) Despite what the song says, God never turned stone into bread. The Devil wanted Jesus to do it, but Jesus refused. 2) Sure, a lot of money was raised, but in typical elite rich entertainer fashion, the artists didn't give very much of themselves, other than a couple of hours of their time. Contrast this with Rich Mullins, who made a ton of money in the music industry, only to give it all away and go to do charity work -- now that's real compassion!Eric - Cincinnati, Oh
this is one of my favorite songs and it is definitly not less than "Do They Know It's Christmas?" i love it!!!!Aj - Cleveland, Ga
Great cause (which you can still support by buying the Live Aid DVD), but the song doesn't hold up too well after 20 years does it? Compare this with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Much less dated, and a much better song.Doug - Minneapolis, Mn
Instead of "There's a choice we're making, we're savin' our own lives," was originally "It's a chance we're taking, we're taking our own lives." Quincy felt it sounded too much like suicide so it was changed. You can actually hear MJ singing this line on a special hosted by Jane Fonda about the USA For Africa event. I remember reading somewhere that Lionel came up with "We are the world, we are the children..." but the rest of the song was largely Michael's doing.Germaine - Melbourne, Australia
Lionel Ritchie invited his former bandmates in the Commodores to attend the taping. They assumed he meant to participate in singing the song. Apparently, it caused some hurt feelings...William - Douglasville, Ga
Billy Joel did indeed have a solo, right after Tina Turner.Stephanie - Ellicott City, Md