Lights-Camera-ACTION! (4): We Are The World
August 19 is World Humanitarian Day. This week I bring you “Lights-Camera-ACTION!” a special feature on the world of celebrity giving.
Today I feature an unforgettable humanitarian effort from the American music industry: “We are the World”.
WE ARE THE WORLD
USA for AFRICA, 1985
“We Are the World” is a song and 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 one of the fewer than 30 all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) copies worldwide.
Following Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” project in the UK, an idea for the creation of an American benefit single for African famine relief came from activist Harry Belafonte, who, along with fundraiser Ken Kragen, was instrumental in bringing the vision to reality. Several musicians were contacted by the pair, before Jackson and Richie were assigned the task of writing the song. Following several months of working together, the duo completed the writing of “We Are the World” one night before the song’s first recording session, in early 1985. The last recording session for the song was held on January 28, 1985. The historic event brought together some of the most famous artists in the music industry at the time.
The song was released on March 7, 1985, as the only single from the album. A worldwide commercial success, it topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The first ever single to be certified multi-platinum, “We Are the World” received a Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. However, the song garnered mixed reviews from journalists, music critics, and the public. Fans enjoyed hearing racially and musically diverse recording artists singing together on one track, and felt satisfied in buying “We Are the World”, knowing that the money was going to charity. Other individuals, including many commentators in the rock press, were disappointed that the song did not challenge listeners as to why famines occur in the first place, and felt that the lyrics were self-aggrandizing.
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 home video, a special edition magazine, a simulcast, and several books, posters, and shirts. The promotion and merchandise aided the success of “We Are the World” and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US.
Following the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, a remake of the song by another all-star cast of singers was recorded on February 1, 2010. Entitled “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”, it was released as a single on February 12, 2010, and proceeds from the record aided survivors in the impoverished country.(Info Source)
THE STORY, THE VOICES, THE MESSAGE.
Recorded on February 1st, 2010, in the same studio as the original 25 years earlier (Henson Recording Studios, formerly A&M Recording Studios) the new version, in which Jones and Richie serve as executive producers and producers, was created in collaboration with executive producers Wyclef Jean, Randy Phillips and Peter Tortorici; producers Humberto Gattica and RedOne; co-producers Rickey Minor, Mervyn Warren and Patti Austin; and project producers John Rubey and Adam Fell to benefit the Haitian earthquake relief efforts and the rebuilding of Haiti.
Academy Award-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), whose own personal efforts as well as those of Artists for Peace and Justice have already saved countless lives in Haiti, filmed the private recording session to create the accompanying video and “behind-the-scenes” production, and serves as Film Director and as an Executive Producer with Jones, Richie, Jean, Phillips and Tortorici.
WE ARE THE WORLD 25
Quincy said, “25 years ago, the entertainment industry showed the power of community to help our fellow man when we recorded ‘We Are The World’ to bring relief to those suffering from famine in Ethiopia. And while the need to assist Africa continues, today the country of Haiti is suffering immeasurably from the destruction due to the recent earthquake and is in immediate need of relief that will last long after the television cameras have left. As artists, we have joined together on this 25th anniversary and in the spirit of ‘We Are The World’ to help meet that need.”
“What an unbelievable group of people who have come together to give their voices, for a cause to start the healing of a people who have experienced a devastation of such magnitude,” said Richie. “We believe ‘We Are The World – 25 for Haiti’ can be the start of the healing process.”
“I’m thrilled Quincy, Lionel and Randy invited me to be a part of something so wonderful in which we are standing side by side with Haitian artists and community to help them rebuild their broken nation,” stated Paul Haggis.
“On January 12th, the people of Haiti were faced with a tragedy unlike anything the country has ever experienced,” said Wyclef Jean, songwriter and cofounder of the We Are The World Foundation. “Today, I am proud to be joined by so many members of the artistic community that want to support the region and have donated their time and talents to providing an effective way for the global community to get involved with helping the Haitian population.”
The 25th Anniversary recording features over 80 artists and performers. The recording of ‘We Are The World 25 For Haiti’ embodied the same enthusiasm, sense of purpose and generosity as the original recording 25 years ago. Every one of the artists who participated, regardless of genre or generation, walked into the room with their hearts and souls completely open to coming together to help the people of Haiti.