Thirty five years ago, March, 7 1985, "We Are the World" was released by the "supergroup" USA for Africa. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of fewer than 30 retail singles to have sold at least 10 million copies worldwide.
Following Band Aid's 1984 "Do They Know It's Christmas?" project in the UK, an idea for the creation of an American benefit single for African famine relief came from activist Harry Belafonte, who, along with fundraiser Ken Kragen, was instrumental in bringing the vision to reality. Several musicians were contacted by the pair, before Jackson and Lionel Richie were assigned the task of writing the song. The duo completed the writing of "We Are the World" seven weeks after the release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and one night before the song's first recording session, on January 21, 1985. The historic event brought together some of the most famous artists in the music industry at the time.. Lionel Ritchie personally describing how "We Are The World" was created:
"We Are the World" opens with Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, and Billy Joel singing the first verse. Michael Jackson and Diana Ross follow, completing the first chorus together. Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, and Al Jarreau sing the second verse, before Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, and Daryl Hall go through the second chorus. Co-writer Jackson, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, and Kim Carnes follow with the song's bridge. This structuring of the song is said to "create a sense of continuous surprise and emotional buildup". "We Are the World" concludes with Bob Dylan and Ray Charles singing a full chorus, Wonder and Springsteen duetting, and ad libs from Charles and Ingram. Here is the official "We Are The World" video:
The song was released on March 7, 1985, as the first single from the album. A worldwide commercial success, topping music charts throughout the world and becoming the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The first ever single to be certified multi-platinum, "We Are the World" received a Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Awarded numerous honors - including three Grammy Awards, one American Music Award, and a People's Choice Award - the song was promoted with a critically received music video, a home video, a special edition magazine, a simulcast, and several books, posters, and shirts. The promotion and merchandise aided the success of "We Are the World" and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US.
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