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#ThrowbackThursday: “We Are the World” by USA for Africa

USA For Africa "We Are The World" Columbia Records/CBS
  – USA For Africa "We Are The World" Columbia Records/CBS

by Sean Smith

We are less than one week away from the official start of the presidential caucus, primary season. The Iowa first-in-the-nation caucuses get underway for both Republican and Democratic parties this Monday, February 1. I won’t get too political here, but I will say that I find it absolutely crazy that Donald J. Trump is the frontrunner to win the Republican nomination! I won’t say whether I put that exclamation point there to signify my unbridled excitement or utter abhorrence. I’ll just say that I spent some time this week searching for something uplifting to write about for this weeks edition of Throwback in order to restore my faith in humanity, and luckily I found just that.

On this day 31 years ago, January 28, 1985, many of the biggest names in the music industry gathered together in Los Angeles to record a song for a great cause. They recorded “We Are the World” that day, a song made to help raise awareness about and money to help fight the serious famine occurring in Africa.

The idea for the project was actually not an original one. In 1984 a supergroup of British and Irish singers got together and released the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which was made to raise awareness and money to combat the horrific famine that was happening in Ethiopia. American musician and activist Harry Belafonte, after hearing this song, decided he wanted to get a supergroup of American artists together and do the same thing that was done in the UK. The group would be called USA for Africa, or United Support of Artists for Africa.

All the lyrics of “We Are the World”  were written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. It was produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. Some of the musical stars who lent their voices to the project were Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and Billy Joel just to name a select few. Though the list goes on and on.

The song was released as a single on March 8, 1985. It would quickly climb the U.S. charts were it would top the Billboard Hot 100, R&B Singles, and Adult Contemporary charts. At the 1986 Grammy Awards “We Are the World” won four Grammy’s, taking home the prizes for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, and Short Form Video of the Year. This all helped raise awareness for the famine occurring in Africa, but the commercial success of the song also helped to raise funds to help fight that ongoing famine. The record raised over $40 million in the first year of its release. It has continued to raise money for the cause over the years as well. To date “We Are the World” has raised over $60 million, with 90% of that money going towards fighting famine in Africa and the remaining 10% going towards fighting hunger in the United States.

A devastating earthquake struck the poverty-stricken country of Haiti in January 2010. In an effort to raise money to aid victims of the quake, a new version of “We Are the World” was recorded in the same Los Angeles studio as the original. This time around though it was titled “We Are the World 25 for Haiti.” This new version also included a rap segment, which was not included in the original.

So with today being the 31st anniversary of the recording of “We Are the World”, a song which helped raise awareness and money to fight against famine in Africa, this week we remember the goodwill track in all its glory. Enjoy.

USA For Africa 

“We Are The World”

Columbia Records/CBS

Artists For Haiti 

“We Are The World 25”

We Are The World Foundation