WE ARE THE WORLD by MICHAEL JACKSON
There comes a time when we hear a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We are all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me
Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Let us realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one
“We Are the World” is a song and charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of the fewer than 30 all-time singles to have sold at least 10 million copies worldwide.
The song was released on March 7, 1985, as the only single from the album. A worldwide commercial success, it topped music charts throughout the world and became 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. However, the song garnered mixed reviews from journalists, music critics, and the public. Fans enjoyed hearing racially and musically diverse recording artists singing together on one track, and felt satisfied in buying “We Are the World”, knowing that the money was going to charity. Other individuals, including many commentators in the rock press, were disappointed that the song did not challenge listeners as to why famines occur in the first place, and felt that the lyrics were self-aggrandizing.
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.
Following the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, a remake of the song by another all-star cast of singers was recorded on February 1, 2010. Entitled “We Are the World 25 for Haiti“, it was released as a single on February 12, 2010, and proceeds from the record aided survivors in the impoverished country.
Background and writing
Before the writing of “We Are the World”, American entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte had sought for some time to have a song recorded by the most famous artists in the music industry at the time. He planned to have the proceeds donated to a new organization called United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa). The non-profit foundation would then feed and relieve starving people in Africa, specifically Ethiopia, where around one million people died during the country’s 1983–1985 famine.
The idea followed Band Aid‘s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” project in the UK, which Belafonte had heard about. In the activist’s plans, money would also be set aside to help eliminate hunger in the United States of America. Entertainment manager and fellow fundraiser Ken Kragen was contacted by Belafonte, who asked for singers Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers—Kragen’s clients—to participate in Belafonte’s musical endeavor. Kragen and the two musicians agreed to help with Belafonte’s mission, and in turn, enlisted the cooperation of Stevie Wonder, to add more “name value” to their project. Quincy Jones was drafted to co-produce the song, taking time out from his work on The Color Purple. Richie also telephoned Michael Jackson, who had just released the commercially successful Thriller album and had concluded a tour with his brothers.
Jackson revealed to Richie that he not only wanted to sing the song, but to participate in its writing as well. To begin with, “We Are the World” was to be written by Jackson, Richie, and Wonder. As Wonder had limited time to work on the project, Jackson and Richie proceeded to write “We Are the World” themselves. They began creating the song at Hayvenhurst, the Jackson family home in Encino. For a week, the two spent every night working on lyrics and melodies in the singer’s bedroom. They knew that they wanted a song that would be easy to sing and memorable. The pair wanted to create an anthem. Jackson’s older sister La Toya watched the two work on the song, and later contended that Richie only wrote a few lines for the track. She stated that her younger brother wrote 99 percent of the lyrics, “but he’s never felt it necessary to say that”. La Toya further commented on the song’s creation in an interview with the American celebrity news magazine People. “I’d go into the room while they were writing and it would be very quiet, which is odd, since Michael’s usually very cheery when he works. It was very emotional for them.”
Richie had recorded two melodies for “We Are the World”, which Jackson took, adding music and words to the song in the same day. Jackson stated, “I love working quickly. I went ahead without even Lionel knowing, I couldn’t wait. I went in and came out the same night with the song completed—drums, piano, strings, and words to the chorus.” Jackson then presented his demo to Richie and Jones, who were both shocked; they did not expect the pop star to see the structure of the song so quickly. The next meetings between Jackson and Richie were unfruitful; the pair did not produce any additional vocals and got no work done. It was not until the night of January 21, 1985, that Richie and Jackson completed the lyrics and melody of “We Are the World” within two and a half hours, one night before the song’s first recording session.