We Are the World
Name = We Are the World
USA for Africa
from Album = We Are The World
March 7, 1985
Format = CD,
January 28, 1985
Label = Columbia
Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie
Quincy Jones, Michael Omartian
Last single = -
This single = "We Are the World" (1985)
Next single =
"We Are the World" is a
1985song written by Michael Jacksonand Lionel Richie, produced and conducted by Quincy Jonesand recorded by a supergroup of popular musicians billed as USA for Africa.Cite web
title = We Are the World by U.S.A. For Africa
publisher = Songfacts
date = 2002
url = http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1560] The
charity singlewas intended to raise funds to help famine-relief efforts in Ethiopiaas food shortages had intensified during a drought in 1984- 1985.
The project was inspired by the British Band Aid project and helped inspire other projects around the world such as "Cantaré, Cantarás" in Latin America.
The Pointer Sisters
During the performance, the solo portions, sung by the lead singers, allowed their distinctive, famous voices to be heard individually, or in pairs, for several minutes, before the entire group sang the third repetition of the chorus verses. Later into the song they intensify the climax of the song with a key change from E to F.
The arrangement created a dramatic effect by having the entire group sing together only after many of the celebrity singers are revealed in solo parts through two repetitions of the chorus and the bridge is sung by
Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, Kim Carnes, and Cyndi Lauper.
Recording session details
The recording session in January 1985 was held during and after the
American Music Awards. Michael Jackson skipped the American Music Awards ceremony that night to record the chorus of the song as a guide to the other artists.The artists who performed on "We Are the World" arrived at the studio in limousines (as most of them had participated in the American Music Awards) - except Bruce Springsteen, who arrived driving a pickup truck. John Denver, who had been actively campaigning against world hunger in the 1980s, had offered to participate in the recording, but was turned down. Linda Ronstadtmissed the session due to a bout with the flu and Pat Benatarwas not available due to her pregnancy, since there was concern the bright lights and number of people in the studio would not have made it feasible for her to be present in the studio.Although Michael Jacksonand most of his brothers were at the recording, sister Janet, who would have her first hit album a year later, and Rebbie were not. The middle Jackson sister, LaToya, did participate. Also, brother Jermaine was the only Jackson brother who did not attend the recording. Cyndi Lauper's jewelry clicking required a retake of the bridge section and during a break in the session, the group broke out into an impromptu version of Harry Belafonte's 1950s hit "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" which led to a suggestion, "This should be the B-Side." Stevie Wondercame back after the session to "touch up" his vocals.
Disagreement about the lyrics
The lyric "there’s a choice we’re making / we’re saving our own lives" was originally written as "there’s a chance we’re taking / we’re taking our own lives" but was rewritten when it was feared the original phrasing's first part might look like the artists are patting themselves on the back while the last part might suggest suicide. [Interview with Quincy Jones for official video (1985).] Also, the artists discussed whether they should sing "we are the ones who make a brighter day" instead of the original "better day". They eventually ended up singing "brighter day."
VH-1’s " Pop-Up Video" stated that Waylon Jenningsleft the recording session due to a dispute over the lyrics. The dispute started when Stevie Wonderannounced that he would like to substitute a line in Swahili. After a few rehearsals, a full-fledged creative conflict broke out. Geldof pointed out that Ethiopians do not speak Swahili. Michael Jackson then proposed to keep his original line "Sha-lim sha-lingay" but after a few rehearsals, it too ran into opposition, because it does not have a meaning. Eventually Al Jarreaucried, "We can make a meaning" and came up with "One World, our word" which was changed one last time in "One world, our children."
USA for Africa
The group name "U.S.A. for Africa" actually stands for "United Support of Artists for Africa" (not "United States of America").Most of the singers on the record are American, with the exception of
Bob Geldof(who is Irish) and Dan Aykroyd(who is Canadian).
Prince telephoned Quincy Jones in mid-session and offered to contribute a guitar part, but Jones said it did not fit into what they were doing, but did say he would accept a solo track for the album, which Prince did contribute.Patti LaBelle and Prince participated in the 1985 television broadcast performance of "We Are the World" from the
Apollo Theatre, and many of the above names participated in the performance of "We Are the World" at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in July of 1985. Luciano Pavarottiperformed the song at one of his annual charity concerts in 1999 with the likes of Gloria Estefanand Mariah Carey.Billy Joel used the meeting with Ray Charles to get him to contribute a vocal on a song that Joel later recorded called "Baby Grand"...
When released as a single, "We Are The World" rose up the charts rapidly in the U.S., reaching #1 on the
Billboard Hot 100on April 17, 1985and remaining there for four weeks. It was also ranked as "Billboard"'s #1 song of 1985, meaning it was the best-selling single of the year. It also reached #1 in the UK, and made the Top 10 in countries throughout the world. In the UK, it was the 33rd best-selling single of 1985.
* The trio "Tito, Vic and Joey" (
Tito Sotto, Vic Sottoand Joey de Leon) recorded a parody of the song called "Maid in the Philippines". It was used as soundtrack to their 1985 movie, " I Have Three Hands". The spoof song talks about household helpers, the theme of the movie. They also parodied the music video of the song.
* In the 1987 film comedy "
Dragnet," Sgt. Joe Friday ( Dan Aykroyd) expressed his disgust over the knowledge that "a smut peddler like Jerry Caesar can build a modern-day Gomorrahsmack-dab in the same city where they recorded "We Are the World." Aykroyd had been part of the song's chorus two years earlier.
* At the end of the 2003 movie "", a host of former child actors parody the song with "Child Stars", and sing the song in a format similar to "We Are the World". The screen shows the song being sung in a similar way to the video for "We Are the World" as well, with many different former child actors singing different two or three line segments of the song.
* In spring of 1985, during its tenth season, "
Saturday Night Live" featured an opening musical sketch called "I’m Also the World" where Prince (played by Billy Crystal) sings, while fellow musicians Willie Nelson(played by Jim Belushi), Cyndi Lauper(played by Pamela Stephenson), Bruce Springsteen(played by Gary Kroeger), and Paul Simon(played by Martin Short) attempt to perform a duet with him and get beaten up by Prince’s bodyguards (played by hosts Hulk Hoganand Mr. T) and back-up singers (played by Mary Grossand Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
* In the mid-1980s, the
New Zealandsatirical show " McPhail & Gadsby" featured a spoof called "We Are the Worms" with a slightly modified tune. The lead singer was then-Prime Minister David Lange, as played by David McPhail. The idea behind the song was that New Zealand was a small country trying to spread goodwill in international politics, though whether it was complimentary is open to question.
*An episode of "
Married... with Children" had Al Bundy ( Ed O'Neill) and several elderly rockers record a benefit song called, "We Are the Old".
Frank Zappacited this song on " Crossfire" when asked what song of the last 20 years he would not like his children to hear. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDDIiIOFE_Q]
* British satire show "
Spitting Image" performed a spoof version called " We're Scared of Bob".
* Chilean television show CQC performed a spoof version called "No seai' weón" (don't be silly) in one of the programs of the
2006season. Journalist Fernando Lasalviacomposed it and he appeared singing the song with Chilean television people of Chv Channel and Mega Channel . The lyrics were a protest against the politics of Canal 13 and TVN. These channels have prohibited the use of their images in other television channels' programs.
* Norwegian television show "
Gylne Tider" (Golden Times) shot a "We Are the World" music/promo video during production of the third season of the series. The video was aired only once (October 28, 2006 on TV2) prior to the season premiere and featured all celebrities appearing in the upcoming season, mimicking to the original music.
* On a special episode of "
Jimmy Kimmel Live" airing after the 2008 Academy Awards, host Jimmy Kimmelspoofed "We Are The World" in a comedy music video called "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck" (made in response to his girlfriend, Sarah Silverman's popular music video "I'm Fucking Matt Damon," made earlier that year). The segment included a choir obviously inspired by "We Are The World" featuring numerous celebrities such as Robin Williams, Harrison Ford, Cameron Diaz, Macy Gray, Don Cheadleas well as "We Are The World" veteran Huey Lewis.
The Simpsons" episode Radio Bartparodies the celebrity charity chorus when Bart tricks the town into believing a young boy has fallen down the local well. Rock star Sting guest stars in the episode, and leads the song "We're Sending Our Love Down the Well", along with several Simpsons characters. The recording of the song within the show appears much like the original "We Are The World" video clip.
* In an episode of Nickelodeon's
All That, Miss Piddlin (played by Kenan Thompson) sang a parody called "Peas Are The World".
* In the episode
City on the Edge of Foreverof South Parkthe towns people get together and sing for their lost children, instead of going to look for them.
* In the episode Sophia's Choice (1989) of "
The Golden Girls", after administrator Cummings says "The world is bringing me problems! And you are?", Sophia Petrillo (played by Estelle Getty) responds: "We are the world." [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0589818/quotes The Internet Movie Database ] ]
* The British sketch show
Harry and Paulfeatured an episode in which a multilingual manager, and his heavily globalized team, sing the song.
* At the end of
Live Aidin Philadelphia, Lionel Richiemade a surprise appearance and performed the song live along with some other performers from the show including Cher, Patti LaBelle, Peter, Paul & Mary, Mick Jagger, Joan Baez, Bill Graham, Sheena Easton, Graham Nash, and Chrissie Hynde, as well as Tina Turner, Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, and Harry Belafonte(all featured on the album version).
* The group
Culturcidecovered the song as "They're Not the World," with new lyrics which accused USA for Africa of being more concerned with publicity than with charity.
Westboro Baptist Churchwrote and recorded their own version of the song titled "God Hates the World" in reference to God's supposed hatred of homosexualsand others. They also created a music video for it as well. [ [http://religion.netscape.com/story/2007/06/25/god-hates-the-world God Hates The World » Propeller ] ]
* Avant Garde music group
The Residentshave recorded two versions of this song. One a frenetic word for word cover, one sung to the melody with new lyrics.
1986, Nina Hagensang a unique cover-version in German ("Wir sind die Welt") during a German television show for the 40th anniversary of UNICEF.
Rick Dees' album "I'm Not Crazy" carries a parody of the song as its first track, entitled "We Are the Weird".
David Bowiecriticized the song in the lyrics of his 1993single "Black Tie White Noise".
Faith No Morespoofed the song with a song of their own, entitled " We Care a Lot".
Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machinecovered this Loungestyle song on their 2005album " Aperitif for Destruction". Near the end of the song Richard Cheesemakes a joke about Michael Jackson.
* Country music parodist
Cledus T. Juddrecorded a parody of the song, called "We Own the World", on his debut album, " Cledus T. Judd (No Relation)". The song lampoons the short-lived marriage of Lisa Marie Presleyto Michael Jackson, with Judd portraying the part of Jackson.
* A shortened version of the song was performed during
World Music Awards2006. Michael Jackson performed the song with a youth choir.
* thescambaiter.com, An online fraud fighting group, based their 2007 track, "We Are The Baiters", on the original. Recorded over 2 weeks with participating singers emailing in their parts to be included in the song. The song celebrates
scam baiting, the sport of wasting fraudsters' time so as to hinder their ability to scam.
André-Philippe Gagnonbecame world-wide popular by imitating this song. Already famous in Québec, André-Philippe Gagnon started a world tour upon this imitation. He later had a daily show in Las Vegas.
Steve Burguiere, head producer of the " Glenn Beck Program", and his group, Stu & the Blackhearts, recorded a cover of the song in which he and other members of the staff mimicked the original singers. The remake raised over $15,000 for tsunami victims.
* A wide array of
Hong Kongartists collaborated on a Cantonese cover to fund relief.
* The oil company
Royal Dutch Shellattracted some controversy in 2006 [ [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e62ed7c0-8c5c-11db-9684-0000779e2340.html FT.com / Columnists / Lucy Kellaway - A distinct lack of value-add from this year’s top twaddlists ] ] when they adopted the music, and some of the lyrics, of the song (renamed “Growing and Winning”) for an internal motivational anthem. Intended to inspire staff the words included such phrases as "“Now we’re on a journey, to streamline the way we work, and build a global enterprise”" and "“…we have moved on, growing day by day sharing strengths, we practice what is best - we are all a part of Shell’s global family”"
Bio-Rad's "Scientists for Better PCR" song [ [http://bio-rad.cnpg.com/lsca/videos/ScientistsForBetterPCR/ Bio-Rad - Scientists for Better PCR ] ] .
Charity song references
The following cultural references do not directly parody or mention "We Are the World," but are arguably inspired by the charity song trend of which "We Are the World" was a part:
The Simpsons" parodied the song in the episode " Radio Bart," which featured the song, "We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well." This also mentions the " limo" situation (see "limosines" below). The song was again parodied in the episode " Million Dollar Abie" in which celebrity impersonators including a Michael Jackson lookalike unite to sing a song entitled "Springfield Blows".
The Critic" did a "We Are the World"-style song with Movie critics when Jay Sherman was in Iraq.
Mitch Hedburg's first album, " Strategic Grill Locations", he references this song in a joke concerning how certain songs are special to couples: "We are the world, we are the children... remember that, sweetie? That night I fucked you in the pet cemetery?"
Duckman" featured a "We Are the World"-type song called "We Are There" in the episode "America the Beautiful".
* At the end of "", an ensemble of former child actors perform a "relief song" for former child actors. It is shot in the style of the video for "We Are the World".
* On the television show "
Married… with Children", the Bundy family joins a group of former musicians for their song for Old Aid.
* A 1987 Portuguese charity single called "Amor E A Paz" from the record "Amor & Paz" ("Love & Peace"), and performed by various
Portuguese Americansingers—members of the AUA (Artistas Unidos da América)—including the producer Marc Dennisand the singer Jorge Ferreira.
* A 1995 episode of "
Late Night with Conan O'Brien" featured a song called "Help With Your Heart," in which Sting shows up as the only celebrity and eventually sings some lines of nonsense.
Saturday Night Live", following the 1992 Los Angeles riots, performed a song called "Recurring Characters for Unity," in which recurring characters such as the Cajun Man, two Swerski Superfans, Nat X, and others urged viewers: "let’s stay calm / let’s build not burn / and let the fighting end."
* An earlier "Saturday Night Live" sketch spoofed the trend with a song calling for the liberation of
chickens, called "Musicians for Free-Range Chickens". This sketch was "hosted" by Casey Kasem(played by Dana Carvey). The only musician who played himself was Michael Bolton. The others were imitating real musicians; for example, Adam Sandlerportrayed Axl Roseof Guns N' Rosesand Chris Farleyportrayed Carnie Wilson. "Saturday Night Live" also did three other charity song spoofs, "Play on Michael" (following Michael Jordan's first retirement from the NBA), "Rockers to Help Explain Whitewater", and "Set Our Nanny Free".
The Howard Stern Show" in 2005 did a version based on The Wack Packmembers of the show entitled "We are the Wack Pack".
"Weird Al" Yankovicsong " Don't Download This Song" parodies the charity song trend, with all of the voices in the chorus being Yankovic.
*English rockers Pulp spoof the charity single in their video for "
Bad Cover Version," which features an assortment of celebrity impersonators (such as Missy Elliott, Mick Jagger, William Shatner, and Elton John) doing a bad cover version of the selfsame song. The video features an impersonator of lead singer Jarvis Cocker, who in turn appears at the end of the video as Queen guitarist Brian May.
*A 2007 television promo for the show "
My Name is Earl" features cast members singing a song called "Free Earl" as an advertisement for a new season of the show.
*In February 2008, a skit on
Jimmy Kimmel Livefeatured a number of musicians and actors/actresses performing a song in response to the video Kimmel's girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, made about her and Matt Damonhaving sex with one another. Notably, one of the musicians from We Are The World, Huey Lewis, performs on this song. Also of note is the similar rhyming scheme of the lyrics sung by Lewis in both songs. In "We Are The World", Michael Jacksonsings "When you're down and out there seems no hope at all" which Lewis follows with "But if you just believe there's no way we can fall." In the Kimmel skit, Cameron Diazsings "Oh yeah, I'll ask him: 'Huey, did you see them fuck at all?'" which Lewis follows with "Yes, I saw them fuck. They were in a bathroom stall."
Tears Are Not Enough" - Canadian charity single.
Do They Know It's Christmas?" - UK charity single.
Hear 'n Aid" - Heavy Metal artists charity single.
What's Going On" - American artists to stop the spread of AIDS.
That's What Friends are For" - recorded as a benefit for American Foundation for AIDSResearch.
* [http://www.usaforafrica.org/ USA for Africa official web site]
* [http://www.inthe80s.com/weworld.shtml The song's lyrics and the singers who sang each line]
* [http://pub.tv2.no/TV2/program/article783896.ece Gylne Tider] - We Are the World 2006 music/promo video
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