Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson—man, oh my.
A severe famine in Ethiopia claimed the lives of over 1 million people between 1983 and 1985. A few months after a BBC report on the famine that inspired the U.K. Band Aid charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The biggest names in the American music industry teamed up in 1985 to record a charity single to aid those suffering in Ethiopia, Sudan, and other underdeveloped African nations.
The group of performers went by the moniker USA for Africa, and their hit song “We Are the World” sold more than 7 million records globally and brought in $60 million over the course of the last 37 years.
Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie collaborated on the song’s composition, which Quincy Jones then produced. After the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on January 28, 1985, the vocals were recorded in a single 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. session at Hollywood’s A&M Recording Studios.
The amazing thing about the behind-the-scenes film of the performers singing the song on TikTok is how good their voices are. It’s just a run-through, but every single one of them sounds flawless. It serves as a wonderful reminder that in 1985, becoming a famous singer required a high level of vocal ability.
@musicvarietyclips Replying to @jhcharcoots more rehearsal footage (notice Lionel “fix” Kenny’s part) #wearetheworld #rehearsal #80s ♬ We Are The World – U.S.A. For Africa
In a post-autotune era, it can be difficult to tell which performers can truly sing, and sadly, not many people seem to care.
It sends chills down your spine as Michael Jackson sings, “We’re down and out, there is no hope at all,” at the bridge. Huey Lewis got the line that Prince was supposed to sing since, according to rumor, he skipped the recording session.
On social media, a comical video from the sessions is being shared. In a gathering full of dazzling 1980s stars, Bob Dylan seems absolutely out of place and seems to have no idea what anyone is singing. Dylan’s “mood” in the room has become a global image of what it is like to be part of a collective endeavour without having read the book.
The project “We Are the World” was just the beginning for the United States of America for Africa. Since it began in 1985, it has raised more than one hundred million dollars to help people in Africa and the United States who are battling with poverty and malnutrition. In addition to this, it inspired many individuals to become change agents in their own right.
Watch again this moving complete song: