image from kenkragen.com
Only in America. With ironic boasts of how they’d “check[ed] their egos at the door” SF at the behest of producer Quincy Jones, a slew of U.S. singers lent their chops to “We Are the World,” a charity song which thematically “could be regarded as tub-thumping for America.” KL The lyrics naively proclaimed “the problems of the starving…to be no match for the power of positive thinking.” MA Billy Joel said most of the performers didn’t care for the song and that, if memory served, it was Cyndi Lauper who said to him, “It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.’” SF
Much like the soft drink giant, though, it moved a lot of product, selling over a quarter million copies in one weekend AMG and leaping to #1 in a mere three weeks, the fastest since Elton John’s “Island Girl” in 1975. BR1 It was the only song to hit all five major Billboard charts of that time.
“World” was the U.S. counterpart of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” a song penned by singer Bob Geldof in response to a BBC documentary he saw about the Ethiopian famine. TB He enlisted many of the U.K.’s biggest pop stars for a charity single that movingly pondered how the starving Africans would spend their holidays. The song’s 3.5 million sales were bigger than the country had even seen.
Singer Harry Belafonte decided the U.S. should undertake a similar project and called manager Ken Kragen, who contacted Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, and Jones, who had produced Jackson’s Thriller. Jackson and Richie took three days to work on it individually and then came together to write the song in a matter of hours. KL On January 28, 1985, the day of the American Music Awards, 46 recording artists gathered to record the song in a 12-hour session. SF Vocalists, appearing in order, included: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles.
- one of the top 100 songs of the rock era, according to the DMDB
- one of the top 1000 songs of all time
- DMDB song of the year
- Cash Box’s Top 100 Songs, 1958-1996
- Grammy Award for Record of the Year
- Grammy Award for Song of the Year
- one of the world’s best-selling songs
- one of the RIAA’s top 365 songs of the 20th century
- top 100 adult contemporary songs of all time
- one of the top 100 songs of the 1980s
Resources and Related Links:
- the DMDB page for “We Are the World”
- AMG All Music Guide
- BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 605.
- KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 302.
- MA Dave Marsh. (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 459.
- SF Songfacts.com
- TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 217.