We Are the World
U.S.A. for Africa
Writer(s): Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie (see lyrics here)
Released: March 7, 1985
First Charted: March 15, 1985
Peak: 14 US, 15 CB, 13 RR, 12 AC, 76 CW, 12 RB, 27 AR, 12 UK, 13 CN, 19 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 0.25 UK, 20.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 694.16 video, 77.16 streaming
Awards: (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
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-302 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. BR 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-302 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.
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First posted 1/28/2012; last updated 4/24/2021.