In 1985, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie joined forces to write a song titled, “We are the World.” The hope was for the song to highlight the poverty crisis in Africa and generate much needed aid. The song brought many artists together for a cause and actually created a legacy for other artists to follow.
Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie jumped all in when it came to creating, “We are the world.” The duo handled long nights and experienced emotions of sadness and empathy during the process.
The idea behind the song came from Harry Belafonte and Ken Kragen. Belafonte a long time human rights activist wanted deeply to help the starving people of Africa, more specifically Ethiopia. At the time, Ethiopia lost over 1 million people to famine from 1983 – 1985.
Belafonte’s dream was to not only help poverty stricken Africa, but to help end hunger in the U.S. as well. The long time activists had heard of a charity song created in the UK that had great success in generating aid for Africa, thus sparking the idea for the project.
The sales for the album were shocking. Less than a week after the release the entire 800,000 copies available were sold.
The single also remained number 1 on many billboard charts for weeks and received multi-platinum status. It is said that “We are the world” is the bestselling single of all time. Over 50 musicians and artists worked on the song. Some artists include Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, and many others.
In total, over 63 million dollars through album and merchandise sales were made. It was agreed that 90 percent of these sales would go toward relief for Africa and 10 percent would stay in the U.S. Half of the money allocated for Africa went to emergency aid relief, such as ready-made food. The remainder went toward funding programs that would create lasting change for the country.
Thus far over 70 projects have been created in 7 countries around Africa. These projects help in areas of agriculture, fishing, water management, manufacturing and reforestation. The 10 percent set aside for the U.S. helped with hunger relief and homelessness.
Michael Jackson and the many other involved with the production of We are the World, sparked a legacy for other artists to maintain. In 2010, artists gathered to create another song for charity to raise funds for Haiti after a devastating earthquake left thousands dead and injured. The song was called “We are the World 25 for Haiti.”
The song’s lyrics from the original, “We are the World,” were revised and a rap section highlighting Haiti’s tragedy was added. Artists were able to raise money for the thousands of wounded and displaced citizens.
We are the World will continue to represent the coming together of humanity to create change for a better world. The continuation of humanitarian efforts such as this will ensure that countries faced with tragedy, whether it is disease, famine, or destruction will continue to be supported.
– Amy Robinson