It was 30 years ago that 45 of the world’s top musicians and Hollywood stars joined together for a USA for Africa Charity Project. The song was “We Are the World” and it became the world’s fastest selling single in history.
It’s not hard to understand why when you know that Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote the song and the likes of Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper and more showed up to help out. “Check your egos at the door” was the popular saying that night, and it had to be to get that many people to collaborate on one project.
Do you remember everyone that was there? Or watching the video now can you identify all of those icons? For those that need a memory jog here’s the complete list of A-listers that showed up after the American Music Awards on March 7, 1985 to do a little good for the world.
Conductor: Quincy Jones
Soloists: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles
Chorus members: Dan Aykroyd, Barry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Mario Cipollina, Johnny Colla, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bill Gibson, Chris Hayes, Sean Hopper, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, John Oates, Jeffrey Osborne, Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer and Smokey Robinson
While the video of all those stars in the recording studio is the most notable performance of the song, it did have a life much longer than that weekend. It topped the Billboard charts for a month. President Bill Clinton had many of the original “We Are the World” performers sing the song at his first inauguration in 1993.
Michael Jackson used it as a video intro to his single “Heal the World” on two world tours during the early 90s. Many of his celebrity fans grouped together to sing “We Are the World” at Jackson’s memorial service in 2009. That performance introduced the song to a whole new generation, which resurrected it to No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, 24 years after it first hit No. 1.
In 2010, Quincy Jones tried to remake the hit to help benefit the victims of a massive earthquake in Haiti. He invited back original performers and some of the top names of modern day pop including Usher, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus for “We Are the World 25: Haiti.” However, it failed to have the same pop culture legacy that its original was able to achieve.
Smokey Robinson remembers the night “We Are the World” was made and the impact it had in the video below.