As America breaks the record for generosity with text messages for Haiti, we can draw inspiration today from another milestone in giving, a quarter century ago. On this day in 1985, the biggest stars in American music gathered in one studio to record the song, We Are the World, and their efforts, on behalf of African famine relief, became the fastest-selling American pop single in history.
Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones, the song was the vision of Harry Belafonte, who wanted to assemble a group of American musical heavy-weights united for the purpose of making a record for charity, one year after a million people died of starvation in Ethiopia.
In all, more than 45 of America’s top musicians participated in the recording, including Jackson and Richie, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, and Daryl Hall. The song eventually became the biggest selling single in both US and pop music history.
Since its release, “We Are the World” has raised over $63 million — with ninety percent of the money pledged to African relief. The remaining 10 percent of funds was earmarked for domestic hunger and homeless programs in the US.
Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie planned to organize a re-recording of “We Are the World” for today —the 25th anniversary of the original recording of the song. However, due to the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, these plans were postponed. The new version is now set to be recorded on February 1, 2010, with the proceeds to be earmarked for Haiti.
Watch the original video below, noting how the song withstands the test of time. Read the Wikipedia entry to learn how the song came to be and what followed.