We Are the World
“We Are the World” is a charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is the eighth best-selling physical single of all time.
Soon after the UK-based Band Aid group released “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in December 1984, musician and activist Harry Belafonte began to think about an American benefit single for African famine relief. He enlisted fundraiser Ken Kragen to help bring the vision to reality. The duo contacted several musicians, and ultimately, Jackson and Richie were assigned to write the song. The duo completed the writing of “We Are the World” seven weeks after the release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, and only one night before “We Are the World”‘s first recording session, on January 21, 1985. The historic event brought together some of the era’s best-known music industry artists.
The song was released on March 7, 1985, as the first single from the album by Columbia Records. A worldwide commercial success, it topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling U.S. pop single in history. “We Are the World” received a Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, becoming the first single to be certified multi-platinum.
Awarded numerous honors—including three Grammy Awards, one American Music Award, and a People’s Choice Award—the song was promoted with a critically received music video, a VHS, a special edition magazine, a simulcast, and several books, posters, and shirts. The promotion and merchandise helped “We Are the World” raise more than $63 million ($149 million today) for humanitarian aid in Africa and the United States.
In January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 M earthquake devastated Haiti, leading another all-star cast of singers to remake the song. Entitled “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”, it was released as a single on February 12, 2010; proceeds from the record aided survivors in the impoverished country.
In March 2020, Richie suggested that a third remake should be made to communicate a message of global solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic and raise funds for aid efforts.