We Are The World

The history of the creation of "We Are The World" (We are the world)

"We Are The World" (We are the world): how the song was created

35 years ago, a group of dozens of famous American musicians came together to create a masterpiece - one song for the victims of the Ethiopian famine. "We Are The World" will become one of the best-selling singles of all time, it will bring millions of dollars to the hungry in Ethiopia!

In November 1984, the British band Live Aid recorded a Christmas song to raise money for famine relief. By the end of December, American music legend Harry Belafonte was outraged that African Americans had done nothing to help the starving and dying Ethiopians. He called renowned pop celebrity manager Ken Cragen and offered to organize a benefit concert with superstars. Minutes later, Kragen, who later headed the relief organization United Artists for Africa (USA for Africa), called singer and songwriter Lionel Richie…

Richie loved this idea!

“This is the moment in your life when anything is possible,” he says. “You want to solve all the world's problems. So when they call you and ask, "Would you like to save hungry people?" Answer: "Of course, yes!"

Richie and Kragen agreed that the record would be better than just one show. They couldn't find anyone better than composer, arranger and producer Quincy Jones. That evening, Richie called Jones, who at the time was just sitting with a pop star (Michael Jackson).

A few days later, Jones, Richie, and Jackson were already at Jackson's home in California, California, coming up with the tune. Within two days, the composition "We are the world" took shape.

“We are very similar in our approach to music,” says Richie, who is still talking about his friend Michael in present tense. “Even though our music is so different… We sang this song, made it up, we had someone who could compose the music. And of course we just killed this melody with our vocals! That was incredible. And then, after all that, it was just a matter of shaping the different phrases.”

While they were working on the song, Kragen set to work looking for famous singers to participate. The list of mid-80s pop artists who joined Richie and Jackson consisted of: Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. And that's not all. There were over 45 participants in total. Another four dozen were rejected.

Kragen says Quincy Jones was aware of the potential problems of managing so many celebrities and their egos. He said:

"Look. If we allow anything to chance, if we allow anything to individual artists, we will have absolute anarchy. They will all fight for the solo performance they think is the most important, they will all fight for it. But they will have to work in a group."

They recorded the vocals on the night of January 28 in one 10 hour session. The song was released five weeks later.

Music critics gave the song mixed reviews. Some liked the tune for its simplicity and the fact that it was performed by such a racially diverse group of celebrities. Others have wondered why the song does not address issues leading to famine in Africa.

But in the music business, only record sales matter. And "We are the World" was no exception: the song became the best-selling pop single in US history. She topped the music charts all over the world. But for Lionel Richie and other artists, it was something more.

“What you pray for your entire career,” Richie says, “is that on top of all the hits and all the money you plan to make, you really leave some kind of mark on the world. It was the best thing that could ever happen, because all of our talents overnight, despite our egos, were directed to helping others in this cruel world. And we all knew that the song would have a direct impact on the lives of these people. Richie hesitated for a second. "We are the world he finally says, “this is the day I became a citizen of the world.”


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