Today In History : January 28, 2022
On This Day In History
On January 28, 1985, “We Are The World” was recorded. The song, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richey, was performed by 45 popular musicians to raise awareness of the severe famine in Africa. The recording of this song raised millions of dollars to provide basic needs for starving Africans.
Quincy Jones sent a special instruction to several dozen pop stars who were to participate in recording “We Are the World:” “Check your egos at the door.” Jones was the producer of the record. It would go on to sell more than 7 million copies and raise more than $60 million for African famine relief.
With only one chance to get the recording right, Jones convened the marathon recording session of “We Are the World” on the evening of January 28, 1985, immediately after the American Music Awards ceremony, which was held just a few miles away.
Singer Harry Belafonte was the initiator of the events that led to the recording of “We Are the World.” Inspired by “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—the charity record by the British-Irish collective Band Aid—Belafonte talked Richie, Jackson and Jones into helping him organize an American response under the name “USA for Africa.” Richie and Jackson wrote the song over the course of several days in January. Belafonte’s manager, Ken Kragen, came up with the plan to hold the session on the night of the AMA’s in order to guarantee that the greatest number of big names would be around.
Among the 45 stars who sang on “We Are the World” that night were huge-in-the-80s figures like Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis; Country stars like Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson; pop icons like Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner and Paul Simon; and musical giants like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan. Also in the studio that night were half of the Jackson family, one Irishman (Bob Geldof, co-organizer of Band Aid) and one Canadian, comedian Dan Aykroyd. The group laid down the chorus and solos before sunrise on the 29th, and “We Are the World” was in the stores five weeks later.