We are the World


Harry Belafonte initiated the idea for a fundraising effort. His manager, Ken Kragen,  suggested the multi-artist approach, inspired by the success of the British supergroup Band Aid and their 1984 fundraising single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

The performers gathered at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, California, on January 28, 1985.  Kragen selected the night of the American Music Awards  to ensure as many artists as possible could attend. Jones famously advised them, in his written invitation, to “check your egos at the door.” In all, 45 musicians attended the recording session, including Bob Geldof, who had arranged the Band Aid effort in the United Kingdom. Lead vocals were rotated among 21 of the performers, including Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Billy Joel,  Steve Perry, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

Columbia Records donated their manufacturing and distribution costs to the effort. “We Are the World” hit stores on Tuesday, March 7, 1985 and all 800,000 copies sold out before the end of the weekend. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number twenty-one. On April 5 (Good Fridayin that year), more than 5,000 radio stations played the song at the same time. It became the United States’ number one single on April 13 and held the position for four weeks.

The song went on to win 1985 Grammys for Song of the Year,  Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

Ultimately, the single sold 7.5 million copies in the US. It was released on an album, We Are the World,  which sold over three million copies. In addition to “We Are the World,” the album included previously unreleased songs by Prince,  Springsteen, Turner and other artists. It also included another famine relief fundraising song, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which was performed by Canadian upergroup Northern Lights.

Including revenues from the single, the album, the video and related merchandise, “We Are the World” raised about $50 million for famine relief

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