By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
It is hard to believe that “We Are The World” turns 30 years old today!
This 1985 anthem has played a huge role in encouraging others around the world to help those in need.
So how did this project come about?
According to The New York Times, entertainment icon Harry Belafonte wanted American artists to record a song that would spread awareness to the famine plight in Africa.
He decided to contact celebrated entertainment manager Ken Kragen to help him rally troops to his cause. Mr. Kragen in turn contacted his then clients Lionel Richie and Kenny Rodgers, plus Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones to the project. Mr. Richie escalated the project by bringing in Michael Jackson, to co-write the song with him.
Once, Mr. Richie and Mr. Jackson were finished writing and producing the vocal arrangements, it was time to gather more talent to raise their voices for this massive track. Enter Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, Al Jarreau, Willie Nelson, James Ingram, Hall & Oates, Lindsey Buckingham, Smokey Robinson, Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters and several members of the Jackson family!
Under the guidance of the 27-time Grammy-winning producer, this massive supergroup spent countless hours recording the powerful chorus and solos that gave this song its impressive bite.
When it was released on March 8, 1985, the song peaked at the number one spot on 16 music charts.
This song has been performed live multiple times over the years. Richie, Belafonte, Turner and Warwick joined forces with Barry White, Cher, Mick Jagger, Peter, Paul and Mary and the tour-de-force known as Patti Labelle during the Live Aid finale. During the 1986 American Music Awards, the award show honored Belafonte, Jackson, Jones, Kragen and Richie for their humanitarian efforts. They also led the first global sing along. While Ross, Robinson, Wonder, Julian Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor, Sheila E, Whitney Houston and others joined the men in California; Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and Sir Paul McCartney joined in via satellite in their respective hometowns.
Eight years later, several USA for Africa alumni (Jackson, Jones, Wonder, Ross, Rogers, Ingram, Warwick and Charles) joined forces with fellow musical legends Franklin, Ashford & Simpson and Tony Bennett, plus a new generation of artists (Kathleen Battle, LL Cool J, Luther Vandross, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow) and half-dozen choirs to celebrate the inauguration of then President-elect Bill Clinton. Several highlights of the performance included the three-way vocal ad-lib battle between Bolton, Franklin and Wonder and Diana Ross forcing the newly elected President to sing.
Let’s fast forward to 2001! This marked the last time that both Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones performed the song together. “We Are The World” was the final song of Jackson’s two-night 30th Anniversary Celebration at Madison Square Garden. Of the original artists that sang on the track, only Charles, Ingram, Jarreau, Rogers and Warwick returned to participate. A smorgasbord of new artists (Aaron Carter, Billy Gilman, Destiny’s Child, Marc Anthony, Mya & *NSYNC) and music veterans (Gloria Estefan, Liza Minnelli, Yoko Ono and Cassandra Wilson) alike joined them on the stage.
Unfortunately, “We Are The World” was performed live one final time during Michael Jackson’s funeral service at the Staples Center. Cast members of the postponed This Is It tour joined the family and mourners on stage for a somber take on the 1985 hit.
A couple of months after the King of Pop’s passing, a magnitude 7.0 MW earthquake rocked Haiti to its core and caused chaos and destruction upon the Third World nation. Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie and Haitian native Wyclef Jean assembled a diverse group of recording artists from multiple genres to raise their voices and awareness to the Haiti recovery with “We Are The World 25 for Haiti.” While this version featured many recognizable and iconic voices such as Adam Levine, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Enrique Iglesias, Janet Jackson, Jennifer(s) Hudson and Nettles, Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige, P!nk, Tony Bennett and Usher; many critics rebutted the inclusions of Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus and multiple rappers on several iconic solos and vocal bridges.
To this day, the official music video has been viewed over 150,303,671 times and peaked at the Top 10 in 11 different countries. In addition to the 25th anniversary edition, two other editions of the song: “Somos El Mundo 25,” which was spearheaded by Gloria and Emilio Estefan and a YouTube edition.
The “We Are The World” legacy is imperative to remember because it showed the power of compassion and support that this world is capable of showing.
I do not own any of the clips and articles that are featured in this post. They belong to their respective media companies.