Today marks the anniversary of a momentous occasion in pop music history. I didn’t say it was necessarily a GOOD momentous occasion, but it was momentous nonetheless.
It was on this date in 1985 that a group of famous musicians got together, called themselves “USA for Africa”, and recorded a song to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. The song was “We Are The World”.
If I’m not too terribly mistaken, this whole “let’s get a bunch of famous people together and sing a song to help starving people” concept started in late 1984 when Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox wrote a song called “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and got a bunch of famous British and Irish musicians to perform it (well, they were famous at the time…what are George Michael and Paul Young doing these days?)
Thus, the bandwagon was built and ready for jumping onto (?). The Americans were NOT going to be outdone by those Brits. Charity begins in the good ol’ USA, right? So Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote “We Are The World”. Now, they probably could have raised enough money by just releasing a version by Michael Jackson and having him donate all the proceeds to Ethiopian relief. After all, he was just coming off “Thriller”, and most kids would buy anything with his name on it. But no, they had to follow the Europeans and get a bunch of famous people to sing on it. Here’s the list of the artists who performed on the song:
Soloists: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles.
Chorus: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Mario Cipollina, Johnny Colla, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bill Gibson, Chris Hayes, Sean Hopper, Jackie Jackson, LaToya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Tito Jackson, Randy Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, John Oates, Jeffrey Osbourne, Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer, Smokey Robinson.
Yeah, how about that chorus, huh? What a star studded line-up. Michael was sure to get pretty much the whole Jackson family in there, even Tito…fuckin’ Tito Jackson! Most people forgot he even WAS a Jackson. Plus a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. And what the hell was Dan Aykroyd doing there? Who’s idea was it to invite him? For one thing, he’s CANADIAN! For another thing, HE CAN’T SING. For another thing, HE’S A TERRIBLE FUCKING ACTOR! I just wonder how much lobbying some cigar-chomping agents had to do to get their people in that studio? “Tell you what, Quincy…I’ll let you have Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, but you gotta take Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler, too. This is a package deal only”.
Now before you start on me with “but they raised a lot of money and awareness for starving children”, stop. I want to help starving children as much as the next person. It’s something we need to do. But instead of jockeying for position in the official “We Are The World” video, how about just breaking into those million-dollar bank accounts and writing an anonymous check? I’m sure it would be just as fulfilling. Like I said before, if they had just put Michael Jackson’s name on it and said that all the money was going to starving kids, they would have still made a bundle.
The world wasn’t done after WATW. Then there was “Hands Across America”, and the lesser known “I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City” written by Miami Steve Van Zandt. And then there was Live Aid, and Farm Aid…and…and…
Geez I’m glad the 80’s are over.