In 1985 Africa was going through a severe famine our world news was full of horrific scenes of starved people. American artists came to together and sang a powerful song that saw them raise over $60 million that went to several countries.
Writing and producing
Harry Belafonte and talent manager Ken Kragen had the idea to gather black artists to perform in a charity concert for Africa. They brought Lionel Richie to help write an original song and got Quincy Jones to agree to produce it, and he brought Michael Jackson.
The famous lyrics “We are the world, we are the children” are Lionel Richie’s work. The bulk of the song’s lyrics were Michael Jackson’s work. Quincy Jones recorded the music before recording the vocals.
The arrangement of the song and singers
The song has two stanzas, a chorus, and a rousing bridge. Seven soloists sang in the first verse, and three soloists brought in the second verse. Each of the soloists has unique voices and Quincy Jones who orchestrated their positions in the choir. He wrote everyone’s name on tape and stuck it to the floor.
The song is about 7 minutes long because it had to be the right length for radio play, yet still long enough to feature as many celebrity soloists as possible. Fortunately, the stars were respectful of Quincy Jones and ditched their demanding personalities before coming to record.
USA for Africa ran on a tight schedule and took a month to complete. All the stars came to Los Angeles in January, for the American Music Awards, and after the ceremonies, went to A&M Studios for the recordings, a period of roughly twelve hours.
Many Americans, corporate bodies like Washington Lawn Mowing Services, colleges, universities among others were called upon to help raise money.
Prince did not participate. He turned down the invitation to join on this charity song, but he contributed a song for the benefit album, called “4 The Tears In Your Eyes”.
Bruce Springsteen was the first non-white artist to join the project. His presence and enthusiastic involvement helped the other rock artists to follow suit.
Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson sat through several national anthems in a bid to create a song that would sound familiar to many people.
Cyndi Lauper’s jewelry caused a disturbance by jingling into the microphone.
How did the benefit song perform?
The single was released in March and sold out the first shipment of 800,000 singles. A month later, in April, the song was #1 for four weeks in the United States, and it was #1 for two weeks in the United Kingdom. The single rose to #1 on the R&B chart in May for two weeks.
“We Are The World” won Grammy awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. , and a remake of the charity song was made to give aid to Haiti. To this day, it is still an anthem for assisting stricken countries.