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Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie wrote this song, and Quincy Jones produced it. This talented trio was perfect for the job: Quincy Jones was the hottest producer around, & his Rolodex (what would now be a liên hệ list) was filled with the biggest names in music; Richie had written songs that went to lớn #1 on the Hot 100 each of the previous seven years ("We Are The World" made it eight); Michael Jackson had the biggest album of 1984 with Thriller (produced by Jones) & was the biggest star in the world.
The USA For Africa project began as an idea calypso singer Harry Belafonte had for a benefit concert featuring black musicians. In late December 1984, looking for artists to participate, Belafonte called Ken Kragen, who managed an impressive roster of talent, including Lionel Richie. Kragen convinced Belafonte that they could raise more money và make a bigger impact with an original song; Belafonte agreed and Richie came on board to help.Kragen asked Quincy Jones khổng lồ produce, and Jones enlisted Michael Jackson. Richie got Stevie Wonder involved, and from there, word got out & many members of the music industry signed on lớn help. The project from conception khổng lồ recording took about a month.
This was recorded at A&M Studios in Los Angeles on January 28, 1985, the night of the American Music Awards, which was held at the nearby Shrine Auditorium. Since the artists were all in town for the awards, it was much easier lớn get them together to lớn record the single.
The stars who quý phái solos were, in order, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Michael Jackson (again), Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, & Kim Carnes. Bob Dylan & Ray Charles were also featured on the song and given close-ups in the video.Harry Belafonte, who had the original idea for the project, was in the chorus but didn"t get a solo, joining Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, LaToya Jackson, Bob Geldof, Sheila E., & Waylon Jennings as backing singers.
Prince was asked khổng lồ join the project và Quincy Jones expected him lớn be there, but he didn"t show. This could be because he had a policy against recording with other acts, or because an incident with his bodyguards demanded his attention. He did make a contribution, donating an exclusive track called "4 The Tears In Your Eyes" lớn the follow-up benefit album, which was also called We Are The World.
The 7-inch single (the radio version) runs 6:22; a 12-inch single running 7:19 was also released. Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie had to lớn make the tuy nhiên this long to accommodate as many vocalists as they could - it was balance between getting as many star solos in và keeping it short enough for airplay.
Quincy Jones was responsible for managing the egos of all the stars. It went very smoothly considering some very famous people did not get khổng lồ sing a line. Most of the singers knew Jones personally & respected his wishes that they kiểm tra their egos at the door.
Before the session began, Jones decided where everyone would stand. He put tape on the floor with each singer"s name on it. There was a "no egos" policy, but Jones extended certain courtesies, lượt thích putting Diana Ross in the front row.
The single exceeded expectations in terms of sales. Released on March 7, 1985, 800,000 copies were originally shipped, và they sold out the first weekend. Thanks lớn the wide array of star power, radio stations across a variety of formats put the tuy nhiên in rotation, and MTV gave the video clip plenty of airplay. The single went khổng lồ #1 in the US on April 13, where it stayed for four weeks. In the UK, it hit the vị trí cao nhất spot on April 20 and stayed for two weeks. The song was also a #1 R&B hit, topping that chart on May 4 và staying for two weeks.
The recording session for the vocals (Quincy Jones recorded the instrumental tracks beforehand) took about 12 hours, which is very efficient considering the scope of the project. Since the recording took place after the American Music Awards, it served as a de facto after party, with the artists mingling và in some cases exchanging autographs. By 8 a.m. The next morning, all of the performers had left except for Lionel Richie, who was still there with Jones.
This project was very much an American effort, which makes sense considering it was recorded the night of the American Music Awards. The moniker "USA for Africa" made it clear that it was America"s answer lớn Band Aid, and it showed that famine in Africa was an international concern. The only vocalist to participate who wasn"t American was Bob Geldof, who that summer organized Live Aid with stages in London & Philadelphia.
Billy Joel (from Rolling Stone magazine, December 15, 2005): "Most of us who were there didn"t like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over lớn me và said, "It sounds lượt thích a Pepsi commercial." và I didn"t disagree."
As envisioned by Harry Belafonte, USA for Africa was going to be an effort by African-Americans khổng lồ help Africans in need, và the first group of artists who signed on were black. When Bruce Springsteen came on board, it gave the project greater cultural and musical diversity, as more rock artists joined in. It also modelled a selfless spirit: Springsteen finished up the North American leg of his Born In The U.S.A. Tour the night before in Syracuse New York, flew khổng lồ Los Angeles the next day và drove himself to lớn the studio, bypassing the American Music Awards.According khổng lồ Ken Kragen, Springsteen helped quell tensions in the studio, as the rockers weren"t happy with the tuy nhiên and concerned about their credibility. Springsteen refused to lớn take sides, và led by example with his wholehearted participation.
Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder & Lionel Richie recorded a kiểm tra with the chorus & solos that was put to lớn tape và distributed khổng lồ the artists so they would know what to sing in the studio. Many hadn"t had a chance to listen to it và heard the tuy vậy for the first time when they showed up.
In his verse, Willie Nelson misquotes the Bible when he sings, "As God has shown us by turning stones to lớn bread." Matthew 4 tells us that the devil tried to get Jesus lớn turn some stones into bread, but the Son of God refused, saying, "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."
The session bogged down in the wee hours when Michael Jackson suggested they địa chỉ some African-sounding vocals after each chorus line. Stevie Wonder chimed in with the idea that they add some lines in Swahili. Ray Charles - the only guy who could pull rank on Jackson & Wonder - put a stop khổng lồ it, telling Quincy Jones khổng lồ "ring the bell," meaning khổng lồ move on.
Huey Lewis was supposed to lớn be just part of the chorus, but he got his line because Prince didn"t show up. Describing his good fortune lớn be part of the project, Lewis said, "I was a lucky son of a bitch to lớn be there. Thank God I had a lot of hit records, because I wouldn"t have been there any other way."Lewis spent most of the session next khổng lồ Michael Jackson, whose line came before Huey"s. Lewis recalls that Quincy Jones called Jackson "Smelly" because he was always so clean.
To create the instrumental tracks, Quincy Jones used many of the same musicians he employed on Thriller, including Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), John Robinson (drums), Michael Boddicker (synthesizers), Paulinho domain authority Costa (percussion), Louis Johnson (bass), Steve Porcaro (synthesizers) và David Paich (synthesizers). Michael Omartian was also a key contributor, credited on keyboards và sometimes listed as a producer.
Dan Aykroyd was in the chorus. He was a singer in the semi-fictional band The Blues Brothers, but was invited lớn represent the movie industry.
With very few exceptions (Ray Charles was allowed lớn bring his guide), only performers & crew members were allowed in the studio, with family members, friends and associates dispatched khổng lồ another room (even Billy Joel"s fiancée, Christie Brinkley, wasn"t allowed in). This meant there was no buffer between the superstars, many of whom had never met.
The biggest star not to get an invite was Madonna, whose Like A Virgin album was rocketing up the chart & hit #1 two weeks after "We Are The World" was recorded. We"re guessing this made for some awkward conversations at the American Music Awards, where she was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist. "Where"s the party?"... "Uh, we"re all kind of tired so I guess everyone is going trang chủ to sleep."
John Oates said of his memories of recording this song: "It was really interesting and unique. Who knows, it may never happen again in history. You have some of the world"s greatest singers in one room. We ran the tuy nhiên down once. The next thing you knew they ran the tape back & it was goosebump time. It was an amazing experience."
Richie và Jackson had grand musical ambitions for this song: they listened to lớn national anthems from various countries before writing it. "We put all that into a pot in our heads và came up with a rhythm that sounded familiar, like a world anthem," Richie told USA Today. "We wanted people to lớn feel lượt thích it was a familiar song."
On April 5, 1985 (Good Friday), many radio stations around the world played this tuy vậy simultaneously at 10:50 a.m. EST. This effort was led by disc jockeys in Salt Lake City, Utah & Rome, Georgia.
The song is included on an album called We Are The World, featuring songs by The Pointer Sisters, Steve Perry, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Chicago, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers và Huey Lewis & The News. Also on the album is "Tears Are Not Enough" by Northern Lights, a collaboration of Canadian artists to bởi vì their part for the cause. Performers on that one include Anne Murray, Bryan Adams, Geddy Lee, Gordon Lightfoot, John Candy, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young & Paul Shaffer.
Lionel Richie hosted the American Music Awards the night this song was recorded, & picked up five awards at the ceremony, including Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist. He closed the telecast with a plea, saying: "Take time right now khổng lồ feel all the other people of the world who are in trouble tonight. Since we have so many beautiful people watching tonight, I want you to lớn know that the world is in trouble, and there are people crying out for your help."Richie had khổng lồ be at rehearsals for the show at 10 a.m., so he was delirious by the time "We Are The World" sessions got going.Michael Jackson, nominated for three awards, skipped the ceremony và went to lớn the studio early to get a head start.
A 30-minute đoạn phim detailing the making of this song called We Are The World - The video Event was sold on VHS, with proceeds going to lớn USA for Africa. A DVD was issued in 2004, this time with extras like a Karaoke track, Michael Jackson"s guide vocal, & solo tracks from Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
On the Philadelphia Live Aid stage, Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick and Harry Belafonte joined Cher, Melissa Manchester and Sheena Easton on stage to lớn perform this tuy vậy as the closing number. On the London stage, "Do They Know It"s Christmas?" was the final song.
Unlike "Do They Know It"s Christmas?," which comes around every holiday season, "We Are The World" was rarely played once it faded. The song wasn"t supposed lớn have staying nguồn though: it was written lớn inspire specific action at a specific time, & it accomplished that goal.
Michael Jackson và Lionel Richie"s original version included "sha-lum sha-lingay" at the end of the chorus. Some participants were unhappy with the nonsense words, so Stevie Wonder suggested a Swahili phrase, "willi moing-gu." That touched off a heated debate, leading Waylon Jennings lớn walk out of the session, reportedly saying, "No good old boy sings in Swahili." The artists eventually quý phái the line, "One world, our children," which most were happy with.It"s unclear if Jennings returned to the studio & took part in the recording. His name is in the end credits as part of the chorus, though he does not sing a solo line.