TC 1985: "We Are The World"

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:42
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

During the 1980s, the plight of famine-ravaged East Africa caught the attention of the world. Many entertainers banded together to raise funds for relief. The result: a single record and an album, “We Are the World.”

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Transcript

Lead: During the 1980s the plight of famine-ravaged East Africa caught the attention of the world. Many entertainers banded together to raise funds for relief. The result: a single record and an album, “We Are the World.”

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The idea of an artists’ project supporting African famine relief originated with Harry Belafonte. Promoter Kenneth Kragen ran with the idea, set up a foundation to manage the project and began to assemble a sterling list of entertainers to participate in a musical production, the proceeds from which would go to alleviate immediate hunger and build infrastructure and educational facilities in Africa and America. Forty-six artists signed up, including twenty-one soloists--among them Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Bob Dylan and Cyndi Lauper.

Jackson and Ritchie wrote what became the signature single on the album which was produced and conducted by Quincy Jones. The recording session for the single, “We Are the World,” took place overnight, beginning at 10:00 PM January 28, 1985 at the A&M studios in Los Angeles. Surprisingly for a gathering of such massive egos, according to reporters who covered the event, the group was remarkably deferential to each other, autographs and pleasantries were exchanged, and they wrapped it up at 8:00 AM the next morning.

Critics were not terribly enthusiastic about the song, but the fans were. By October 1986, the album had generated over $50 million in proceeds. The first planes funded by “We Are the World” brought 200 tons of emergency aid to Ethiopia and Sudan in June 1985.

Research by Erin Morgan, at the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.