WE ARE THE WORLD

Album version


Lionel Richie:There comes a time when we heed a certain call
Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder:When the world must come together as one
Stevie Wonder:There are people dying
Paul Simon:Oh, and it's time to lend a hand to life
Paul Simon and Kenny Rogers:The greatest gift of all

Kenny Rogers:We can't go on pretending day by day
James Ingram:That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
Tina Turner:We're all a part of God's great big family
Billy Joel:And the truth
Tina Turner and Billy Joel:You know, love is all we need

Michael Jackson:We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving

Diana Ross:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
Michael Jackson and Diana Ross:It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Dionne Warwick:Well, send them your heart
So they'll know that someone cares
Dionne Warwick and Willie Nelson:And their lives will be stronger and free
Willie Nelson:As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
Al Jarreau:And so we all must lend a helping hand

Bruce Springsteen:We are the world, we are the children
Kenny Loggins:We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
Steve Perry:Oh, there's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
Daryl Hall:It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Michael Jackson:When you're down and out
And there seems no hope at all
Huey Lewis:But if you just believe
There's no way we can fall
Cindi Lauper:Well, well, well, well let's realize
Oh, that a change can only come
Kim Carnes:When we
Huey Lewis and Kim Carnes:Stand together as one
Cyndi Lauper:Yeah yeah yeah yeah!

All:We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving

All:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

All:We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving

Bob Dylan:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

All:We are the world (we are the world)
We are the children (we are the children)
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving (so let's start giving)

All:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
Bob Dylan and all:It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Ray Charles:Alright, let me hear you!
All:We are the world
Ray Charles:We are the world
All:We are the children
Ray Charles:Yeah, we are the children
All:We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
Ray Charles:Let's start giving

Ray Charles:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a finer day
Just you and me
Come on now, let me hear you!

Stevie Wonder:We are the world
Bruce Springsteen:We are the world
Stevie Wonder:We are the children
Bruce Springsteen:We are the children
Stevie Wonder:We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
Bruce Springsteen:So let's start giving

Stevie Wonder:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me, yeah, yeah

Stevie Wonder:We are the world
Bruce Springsteen:We are the world
Stevie Wonder:We are the children
Bruce Springsteen:We are the children
Stevie Wonder:We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
Bruce Springsteen:So let's start giving

Bruce Springsteen:There's a choice we're making
Yeah, we're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me
Stevie Wonder:It's true, woah woah woah woah

All:We are the world (woah woah woah)
We are the children (we are the children)
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving (so let's start giving)

All:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

James Ingram:We are the world
Ray Charles and all:(We are the world)
James Ingram:We are the children
All:(We are the children)
Ray Charles:Yes, so!
James Ingram:We are the ones that make a brighter day
So let's start giving
All:So let's start giving

Ray Charles:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me, hooo hoo

All:We are the world
Ray Charles:Get down!
All:(We are the world)
All:We are the children
Ray Charles:Yeah!
All:(We are the children)
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving

Ray Charles:Alright, need to hear what I'm sayin'!
Ray Charles and all:There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Ray Charles:Alright, I will say it again!
Ray Charles and all:We are the world
All:(We are the world)
Ray Charles and all:We are the children
All:(We are the children)
[fades out]


Page last updated: 06 Jan 2013

Intro

WE ARE THE WORLD is a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. This pioneering all-star charity anthem was recorded in 1985 as a benefit single to raise money for hunger and disease relief in Africa. It was recorded by USA For Africa, a cast of 45 U.S. superstar singers (including Bruce Springsteen) led by Harry Belafonte, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Richie.

History

WE ARE THE WORLD came as a response to DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?, the 1984 single recorded by Band Aid, a British group organized by the Boomtown Rats' Bob Geldof. Members of the group included included Bono, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Sting. The single, written by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, raised more than $20 million for famine relief in Africa and became the top-selling single in British history.

WE ARE THE WORLD was the brainchild of calypso singer and activist Harry Belafonte who was impressed and embarrassed at the same time that a group of mostly white British performers had served an issue he felt the African-American community should have led the world in addressing. Belafonte originally wanted to put together a benefit concert featuring black musicians to raise money for Africa. He contacted leading entertainment manager Ken Kragen, an owner of a personal management and television production company, and who became president of the organization USA For Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). Kragen thought an American version of Band Aid would be a better idea. He was Lionel Ritchie's manager, so he called him with the idea. Ritchie's wife talked to Steve Wonder's wife and arranged to line him up for the song. Wonder was the first star to agree to the project. From there, word got out and many members of the music industry signed on to help. When producer Quincy Jones asked Springsteen to join the effort, however, his response was, "You sure you want me to do this?" Securing Springsteen's involvement was the key turning point in efforts to recruit other big names to the project; Kragen told Rolling Stone, "The turning point was Bruce Springsteen's commitment. That legitimized the project in the eyes of the rock community." Lionel Richie told Playboy: "I dug [Springsteen] the most. That's because he's business. I didn't have to worry about making him the prima donna. He came in the door and said, 'I came here to do this. Just tell me where to go and I've got it, buddy'."

Composition and Recording

Quicy Jones was lined up as the producer, and Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie were the song writers. It is said that Richie came up with "We are the world, we are the children..." but the rest of the song was largely Jackson's doing. The line "There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives," was originally "It's a chance we're taking, we're taking our own lives." Quincy felt it sounded too much like suicide so it was changed. One can actually hear Michael Jackson singing that alternative line on a special hosted by Jane Fonda about the USA For Africa event.

The melody is so simple but beautifully arranged and produced by Daddy Q. Okay. However, Billy Joel told Rolling Stone in 2005, "Most of us who were there didn't like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over to me and said, 'It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.' And I didn't disagree."

The recording was held at A&M Records' studio on the old Charlie Chaplin sound stage on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, CA, on 28 Jan 1985, the night of the American Music Awards. This was, as Kragen and Jones figured, the perfect date to assure that most of the artists would all be free to participate on a single date since they would all be in town for the event. Note that Springsteen's DANCING IN THE DARK won the Best Pop/Rock Single award, but he didn't attend the ceremony. The recording session didn't start until very late on 28 Jan 1985, so, technically speaking, most of the event took place in the early hours of 29 Jan 1985.

The instrumental tracks were recorded ahead of time and sent out to the interested musicians. With each tape, producer Quicy Jones sent a letter stating that they should "check their ego at the door." It went very smoothly considering some very famous stars did not get to sing a line, but most of them knew Jones personally and respected his wish. When they arrived in the studio, Jones had arranged where everyone would stand, putting a tape on the floor with each singer's name on it, arranged around six microphones in a semi-circle.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band concluded their first North American leg of the Born In The USA Tour on 27 Jan 1985 in Syracuse, NY, and took about two months off before the tour resumed in Australia. Springsteen flew to Los Angeles immediately after his Syracuse shows to participate in the recording of WE ARE THE WORLD. Arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport, he rented a Corvette and drove to the studio, parking in a lot across the street. In a humorous anecdote from his autobiography, Is That It?, Geldof recalled that Kragen at one point walked in and said, "'Bruce Springsteen has just parked his car on the other side of the road and walked across – by himself – to the studio. Can you believe it?' I could believe it. 'No, I mean he drove himself, no chauffeur, no limo. Then The Boss walked across himself, no bodyguards, no security.'"

The recording session featured 45 of the biggest names in American popular music in the eighties:

  • Dan Aykroyd
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Kim Carnes
  • Ray Charles
  • Bob Dylan
  • Sheila E.
  • Bob Geldof
  • Hall and Oates
  • James Ingram
  • Jackie Jackson
  • LaToya Jackson
  • Marlon Jackson
  • Michael Jackson
  • Randy Jackson
  • Tito Jackson
  • Al Jarreau
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Billy Joel
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Huey Lewis and the News
  • Kenny Logins
  • Bette Midler
  • Willie Nelson
  • Jeffery Osborne
  • Steve Perry
  • The Pointer Sisters
  • Lionel Richie
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Diana Ross
  • Paul Simon
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tina Turner
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Michael Boddicker - synthesizers, programming
  • Paulinho Da Costa - percussion
  • Louis Johnson - bass
  • Quincy Jones - producer
  • Michael Omartian - keyboards, producer
  • Greg Phillinganes - keyboards
  • John Robinson - drums

Dan Aykroyd was in the chorus. He was a singer in the fictional band The Blues Brothers before it became a SNL sketch (and then a movie), hence he was a musician. VH-1's Pop-Up Video stated that he was invited to represent the American movie industry. Taping was stopped when musicians complained about Cyndi Lauper making an "annoying noise" – her bracelets were rattling next to the microphone as she was singing. Pop-Up Video stated that Waylon Jennings left the recording session due to a dispute over the lyrics. Many of the artists exchanged autographs. Springsteen chatted with friends such as Dylan, Simon, and Joel; the Pointer Sisters, who had a hit with FIRE, sat on his lap at one point.

While participants were all admonished to "check their egos at the door," the recording session was not without its tensions. A manager for one of the artists complained that "the rockers don't care for the song that much and they don't want to stand next to the non-rockers," Kragen recounted. "They felt it was going to hurt their credibility." But when Springsteen refused to join the dissidents' revolt, "the whole mutiny fell apart," Kragen said, recalling that the response of the Boss was: "I'm here to save lives and feed people, and I'm staying."

Springsteen was part of the song's soaring chorus and was also tapped to be one of the soloists, reentering the studio just after 6 a.m. to sing the line "We are the world, we are the children." Asking the producer for some guidance, Jones advised him, "It's like being the cheerleader of the chorus." After the first run-through, Springsteen asked Jones, "Something like that?," to which the producer said "Exactly like that." Springsteen's performance appeared twice in the song, the second time blended with Wonder's. When he finished, Richie declared that Springsteen "is now officially on vacation." Springsteen replied, "That sounds goooooood. I want to get a soda." He then left the studio and turned down an A&M security guard's offer of escort him to the parking lot across the street.

Aftermath

Speaking of the event and of the issue, Springsteen said, "Anytime somebody asks you to take one night of your time to help people who are starving to death, it's pretty hard to say no... There's all this senseless suffering in the world. Either you're tearing something down or building something up. I want to be part of the building process, holding back the flood a little bit."

The single exceeded expectations in terms of sales. 800,000 copies arrived in stores on Tuesday, 07 Mar 1985, and they were sold out by the first weekend. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 on 23 Mar 1985, at #21, and was #1 in three weeks. It sold more than five million copies. At the time, this was the highest debuting single since John Lennon's IMAGINE, and the fastest rising chart-topper since Elton John's ISLAND GIRL in 1975. It was the 8th consecutive year that Lionel Ritchie had written a number one song. The song won Grammy Awards for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year, and was also a #1 single in the UK charts.

The USA For Africa effort raised an estimated $200 million for famine relief, which was distributed to Ethiopia, Sudan, and other impoverished countries. Critics, however, claim that this money went directly to the (often military) governments of the affected countries rather than the people.

The combined success of both DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS? and WE ARE THE WORLD was so impressive that Bob Geldof organized the Live Aid in July 1985, a benefit concert held simultaneously in Philadelphia and London. Surprisingly, Springsteen did not participate in that event. Geldof said that he pursued him aggressively and even changed the date in order to accommodate his schedule, but that didn't convince him. The reason could be that Springsteen was burnout from the lengthy Born In The USA Tour, and he wanted to spend some time with his then-new wife, Julianne Philips. However, Springsteen and his organization did donate the staging from their recent shows at Wembley Stadium to be used at the London show.

In addition to his participation in the song, Springsteen also donated a live recording of Jimmy Cliff's TRAPPED recorded during the Born In The USA Tour to the subsequent benefit 1985 album, We Are The World.

Official Releases

WE ARE THE WORLD was the title track of the various artists album We Are The World, released worldwide in 1985. The album is credited to "USA For Africa".

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

WE ARE THE WORLD was the only track off the charity album that was released as a single. It was issued worldwide on 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl and featured GRACE on the B-side, an instrumental by Quincy Jones who produced the single.


USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - Columbia (US7-04839) - USA, 1985

Commercial sunburst labels or white label promo labels, comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - Columbia (US2-05179) - USA, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - Columbia (7BEN-04839) - Canada, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - Columbia (2BEN-05179) - Canada, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (133-0105) - Ecuador, 1985

Released by IFESA (Industria Fonografica Ecuatoriana S.A.) on behalf of CBS Records. Comes in a "IFESA" transparent sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - Columbia (US7-04839) - Jamaica, 1985

Comes in a CBS company sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (DEP 389) - Argentina, 1985

Promo-only release, comes in a CBS company sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD [short version, 3:00]
Side B: WE ARE THE WORLD [extended version, 7:02]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (USAID 1) - UK, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - UK, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve imported from Holland.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS (USAID T1) - UK, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - Holland, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS (A 12-6112) - Holland, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - Germany, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve imported from Holland.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - France, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve and has injection labels.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - Spain, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - Portugal, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS (12.6112) - Portugal, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - Italy, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS (A 12-6112) - Greece, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7" flexidisc - no label (no catalogue number) - Russia, 1988

Official flexidisc given away with the March 1988 issue of magazine in Russia. Comes in a transparent plastic sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: [blank]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (US 1) - South Africa, 1985

Distributed by Gramophone Records, comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (BA 3275) - Australia, 1985

Commercial sunburst labels or white label promo labels, comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS (BA 12117) - Australia, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS (BA 223275) - New Zealand, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve imported from Australia.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS/Sony (07SP 880) - Japan, 1985

Commercial and promo labels, comes with a picture insert.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

7-inch single - CBS/Sony (07SP 880) - Japan, 1985

Test pressing, comes in a unique sleeve and has stamped white labels.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

USA For Africa -- We Are The World

12-inch single - CBS/Sony (12AP 3021) - Japan, 1985

Comes in a picture sleeve with obi strip.

Side A: WE ARE THE WORLD
Side B: GRACE [by Quincy Jones]

Credits / References

Some of the scans and info about the above official releases are taken from the Searching For A Gem website.

Request

Please contact me if you have scans for or info about any official release containing WE ARE THE WORLD that's not mentioned on this page. I also need scans for the following releases:

  • USA For Africa -- We Are The World || 12-inch single - CBS (BA 12117) - Australia, 1985
  • USA For Africa -- We Are The World || 7-inch single - CBS (A 6112) - France, 1985

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