Jan 25, 2010

We Are the World

I have a confession to make.

Every time I watch the video for 'We are the World' I inevitably end up in tears. Not always at the same part, sometimes when Michael Jackson sings, sometimes when it's Cindy Lauper's solo, usually around the time Ray Charles starts doing his thing... the point is, this song has the ability to create an emotional reaction so many years later. That is powerful stuff.

I recently read a post on Perez Hilton that claims Lionel Ritchie is trying to do a new version of the same song for Haiti. I have mixed feelings about it, especially since Michael Jackson wrote most of the actual song and was such a huge part of the video (for me). I guess a new version could be extremely awesome, but I sort of feel like if Lionel Ritchie wants to do something for Haiti like he did with this song, then he should write a completely new song and gather a totally new group of individuals to record it.

I have inserted the link to the article here:
It's been 25 years since "We Are The World" was released and now Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie are planning to record an anniversary edition of the song to benefit the Haitian earthquake victims.

Supposedly they had already planned to perform on January 28 as part of the anniversary celebration, but when the earthquake in Haiti struck the project formed in to a fundraiser for the country.

Usher, John Legend and Natalie Cole have been invited thus far and more performers are expected to join. The original song featured Richie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Joel among MANY others.

A music video will accompany new version as well.

Who do U want to hear on the new and improve "We Are The World?"

I have placed the actual video right on this page- watch it once, it is so incredibly moving.

After I watched the video (for the third time in 24 minutes (it's a 7 minute video) I decided to find out if there was any more information about how the song came to be recorded- and was pleasantly surprised to find that someone had made a very thorough Wikipedia entry detailing everything, I copied certain parts of it here for you but you can read the entire thing by copying the link:
"We Are the World" is a 1985 song and charity single recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and co-produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. 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 4× 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, such as those in the rock community, were disappointed that the song did not challenge why famines occur in the first place, and felt that the lyrics were self-aggrandizing.
Honored numerous times—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", which was eventually named the biggest selling single of all time. As of 2009, it has sold more than 20 million units and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US. "We Are the World" demonstrated that diverse musicians could productively work together, and further influenced the movement within pop music to create songs that address humane concerns.

Michael Jackson in 1984, several months before he completed the writing of "We Are the World"
Before the writing of "We Are the World", American entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte had sought for some time to have a song recorded by the most famous artists in the music industry at the time. He planned to have the proceeds donated to a new organization called United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa). The non-profit foundation would then feed and relieve starving people in Africa, specifically Ethiopia, where around one million people died during the country's 1984–1985 famine.[1][2] The idea followed Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" project in the UK, which Belafonte had heard about.[3]a[›] In the activist's plans, money would also be set aside to help eliminate hunger in the United States of America. Entertainment manager and fellow fundraiser Ken Kragen was contacted by Belafonte, who asked for singers Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers—Kragen's clients—to participate in Belafonte's musical endeavor. Kragen and the two musicians agreed to help with Belafonte's mission, and in turn, enlisted the cooperation of Stevie Wonder, to add more "name value" to their project.[1] Quincy Jones was drafted to co-produce the song, taking time out from his work on The Color Purple.[1][4] Richie also telephoned Michael Jackson, who had just released the commercially successful Thriller album and had concluded a tour with his brothers.[1] Jackson revealed to Richie that he not only wanted to sing the song, but to participate in its writing as well.[1][5] To begin with, "We Are the World" was to be written by Jackson, Richie and Wonder. As Wonder had limited time to work on the project, Jackson and Richie proceeded to write "We Are the World" themselves.[5] They began work on the song's creation at Hayvenhurst, the Encino home of Jackson and his family. For a week, the two spent every night working on lyrics and melodies in the latter's bedroom. They knew that they wanted a song which would be easy to sing and memorable. The pair wanted to create an anthem. Jackson's older sister, La Toya, watched the two work on the song, and later revealed that Richie only wrote a few lines for the track.[4] She stated that her younger brother wrote 99 percent of the lyrics, "but he's never felt it necessary to say that".[4] La Toya further commented on the song's creation in an interview with the American celebrity news magazine People. "I'd go into the room while they were writing and it would be very quiet, which is odd, since Michael's usually very cheery when he works. It was very emotional for them."[5]
Richie had recorded two melodies for "We Are the World", which Jackson took, adding music and words to the song in the same day. Jackson stated, "I love working quickly. I went ahead without even Lionel knowing, I couldn't wait. I went in and came out the same night with the song completed—drums, piano, strings, and words to the chorus."[6] Jackson then presented his demo to Richie and Jones, who were both shocked; they did not expect the pop star to see the structure of the song so quickly. The next meetings between Jackson and Richie were unfruitful; the pair did not produce any additional vocals and got no work done. It was not until the night of January 21, 1985, that Richie and Jackson completed the lyrics and melody of "We Are the World" within two and a half hours, one night before the song's first recording session.[6]
[edit]Recording sessions

The first night of recording, January 22, 1985, had tight security on hand, as Richie, Jackson, Wonder and Jones started work on "We Are the World" at Kenny Rogers' Lion Share Recording Studio. The studio, on Beverly Boulevard in California, was filled with musicians, technicians, video crews, retinues, assistants and organizers as the four musicians entered. To begin the night, a "vocal guide" of "We Are the World" was recorded by Richie and Jackson and duplicated on tape for each of the invited performers. The guide was recorded on the sixth take, as Quincy Jones felt that there was too much "thought" in the previous versions.[7]
Following their work on the vocal guide, Jackson and Jones began thinking of alternatives for the line "There's a chance we're taking, we're taking our own lives": the pair were concerned that the latter part of the line would be considered a reference to suicide. As the group listened to a playback of the chorus, Richie declared that the last part of the line should be changed to "We're 'saving' our own lives", which his fellow musicians agreed with. Producer Jones also suggested altering the former part of the line. "One thing we don't want to do, especially with this group, is look like we're patting ourselves on the back. So it's really, 'There's a choice we're making.'"[8] At around 1:30 am, the four musicians ended the night by finishing a chorus of melodic vocalizations, including the sound "sha-lum sha-lin-gay".[8] Jones told the group that they were not to add anything else to the tape. "If we get too good, someone's gonna start playing it on the radio", he announced.[8]
On January 24, 1985, after a day of rest, Jones shipped Richie and Jackson's vocal guide to all of the artists who would be involved in "We Are the World"'s recording. Enclosed in the package was a letter from Jones, addressed to "My Fellow Artists":[8]
The cassettes are numbered, and I can't express how important it is not to let this material out of your hands. Please do not make copies, and return this cassette the night of the 28th. In the years to come, when your children ask, 'What did mommy and daddy do for the war against world famine?', you can say proudly, this was your contribution.[8]
Ken Kragen chaired a production meeting at a bungalow off Sunset Boulevard on January 25, 1985. There, Kragen and his team addressed where the song would be completed by the supergroup of musicians. He stated, "The single most damaging piece of information is where we're doing this. If that shows up anywhere, we've got a chaotic situation that could totally destroy the project. The moment a Prince, a Michael Jackson, a Bob Dylan—I guarantee you!—drives up and sees a mob around that studio, he will never come in."[8] On the same night, Quincy Jones' associate producer and vocal arranger, Tom Bahler, was given the task of matching each solo line with the right voice. Bahler stated, "It's like vocal arranging in a perfect world".[8] Jones disagreed, stating that the task was like "putting a watermelon in a Coke bottle".[8] The following evening, Lionel Richie held a "choreography" session at his home, where it was decided who would stand where.[8]
The final night of recording was held on January 28, 1985, at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, California.[8][9] Michael Jackson arrived at 9 pm, earlier than the other artists, to record his solo section and record a vocal chorus by himself.[8] He was subsequently joined in the recording studio by the remaining USA for Africa artists, which included Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson. Also in attendance were five of Jackson's siblings: Jackie, La Toya, Marlon, Randy and Tito.[10] Many of the participants came straight from an American Music Award ceremony, which had been held that same night.[4] Invited musician Prince, who would have had a part in which he and Michael Jackson sang to each other, did not attend the recording session.[11] The reason given for his absence has varied. One newspaper claimed that the singer did not want to record with other acts.[12] Another report, from the time of "We Are the World"'s recording, suggested that the musician did not want to partake in the session because organizer Bob Geldof called him a "creep".[13] Prince did, however, donate an exclusive track, "4 The Tears In Your Eyes", for the We Are the World album.[12] In all, more than 45 of America's top musicians participated in the recording, and another 50 had to be turned away.[11][14] Upon entering the recording studio, the musicians were greeted by a sign pinned to the door which read, "Please check your egos at the door".[15] They were also greeted by Stevie Wonder, who proclaimed that if the recording was not completed in one take, he and Ray Charles, two blind men, would drive everybody home.[16]
I think what's happening in Africa is a crime of historic proportions... You walk into one of the corrugated iron huts and you see meningitis and malaria and typhoid buzzing around the air. And you see dead bodies lying side by side with the live ones. In some of the camps you see 15 bags of flour for 27,000 people. And I assume that's why we're all here tonight.
—Bob Geldof, addressing his fellow USA for Africa musicians during one of the recording session of "We Are the World" on January 28, 1985.[17]
Each of the performers took his or her position at around 10.30 pm and began to sing. Several hours passed before Stevie Wonder announced that he would like to substitute the "sha-lum sha-lin-gay" sound for a line in Swahili.[17][18] At this point, Waylon Jennings left the recording studio and never returned; he allegedly felt that no "good ole boy" ever sang in Swahili.[17][18] A heated debate ensued, in which several artists rejected the suggestion. The "sha-lum sha-lin-gay" sound ran into opposition as well and was subsequently removed from the song. The participants eventually decided to sing something meaningful in English. They chose to sing the new line "One world, Our children", which most of the participants enjoyed.[17]
In the early hours of the morning, two Ethiopian women, guests of Stevie Wonder, were brought into the recording studio—it had been decided that a portion of the proceeds raised would be used to bring aid to those affected by the recent famine in Ethiopia.[18][19] They thanked the singers on behalf of their country, bringing several artists to tears, before being led from the room.[18][19] Wonder attempted to lighten the mood, by joking that the recording session gave him a chance to "see" fellow blind musician Ray Charles. "We just sort of bumped into each other!"[16] The solo parts of the song were recorded without any problems.[19] The final version of "We Are the World" was completed at 8 am.[19][20]

The structuring of "We Are the World" is said to "create a sense of continuous surprise and emotional buildup".

"We Are the World" is sung from a first person viewpoint, allowing the audience to "internalize" the message by singing the word we together.[21] It has been described as "an appeal to human compassion".[22] The first lines in the song's repetitive chorus, proclaim, "We Are the World, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving".[22] "We Are the World" opens with Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner and Billy Joel singing the first verse.[23] Michael Jackson and Diana Ross follow, completing the first chorus together.[23] Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson and Al Jarreau sing the second verse, before Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry and Daryl Hall go through the second chorus.[23] Co-writer Jackson, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper and Kim Carnes follow with the third verse.[23] This structuring of the song is said to "create a sense of continuous surprise and emotional buildup".[9] "We Are the World" concludes with Bob Dylan and Ray Charles singing a full chorus, Wonder and Springsteen duetting, and ad libs from Charles and Ingram.[23]
[edit]USA for Africa musicians

Conductor: Quincy Jones

Soloists: (in order of appearance)
Lionel Richie
Stevie Wonder
Paul Simon
Kenny Rogers
James Ingram
Tina Turner
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson
Diana Ross
Dionne Warwick
Willie Nelson
Stevie Wonder
‎Al Jarreau
Bruce Springsteen
Kenny Loggins
Steve Perry
Daryl Hall
Huey Lewis
Cyndi Lauper
Kim Carnes
Bob Dylan
Ray Charles
Dan Aykroyd
Harry Belafonte
Lindsey Buckingham
Mario Cipollina
Johnny Colla
Sheila E.
Bob Geldof
Bill Gibson
Chris Hayes
Sean Hopper
Jackie Jackson
La Toya Jackson
Marlon Jackson
Randy Jackson
Tito Jackson
Waylon Jennings
Bette Midler
John Oates
Jeffrey Osborne
Anita Pointer
Ruth Pointer
Smokey Robinson

By the end of 1985, "We Are the World" had become the best selling single of the year.[32] Five years later it was revealed that the song had become the biggest single of the 1980s.[33] "We Are the World" was eventually cited as the biggest selling single in both US and pop music history.[34][35][36]b[›] The song became the first ever single to be certified multi-platinum; it received a 4× certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.[37][27] The estimated global sales of "We Are the World" are said to be 20 million.[38]
Following its release, "We Are the World" received mixed reviews from journalists, music critics and the public. American journalist Greil Marcus felt that the song sounded like a Pepsi jingle.[39] He wrote, "[...] the constant repetition of 'There's a choice we're making' conflates with Pepsi's trademarked 'The choice of a new generation' in a way that, on the part of Pepsi-contracted song writers Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, is certainly not intentional, and even more certainly beyond the realm of serendipity."[39] Marcus added, "In the realm of contextualization, 'We Are the World' says less about Ethiopia than it does about Pepsi—and the true result will likely be less that certain Ethiopian individuals will live, or anyway live a bit longer than they otherwise would have, than that Pepsi will get the catch phrase of its advertising campaign sung for free by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and all the rest."[39] Author Reebee Garofalo agreed, and expressed the opinion that the line "We're saving our own lives" was a "distasteful element of self-indulgence".[39] He asserted that the artists of USA for Africa were proclaiming "their own salvation for singing about an issue they will never experience on behalf of a people most of them will never encounter".[39]
In contrast, Stephen Holden of The New York Times praised the phrase "There's a choice we're making, We're saving our own lives".[9] He commented that the line assumed "an extra emotional dimension when sung by people with superstar mystiques".[9] Holden expressed that the song was "an artistic triumph that transcends its official nature".[9] He noted that unlike Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas", the vocals on "We Are the World" were "artfully interwoven" and emphasized the individuality of each singer.[9] Holden concluded that "We Are the World" was "a simple, eloquent ballad" and a "fully-realized pop statement that would sound outstanding even if it weren't recorded by stars".[9]
In "We Are the World", Bruce gave Cyndi Lauper and Tina Turner a run for their money for worst performance. Springsteen's amazing, up-all-night, three-packs-a-day rendition with Stevie Wonder rivalled Tina Turner's self-conscious moaning and Lauper's putting three syllables in 'change'.
The argument was this: "He's trying so hard, he really feels the lyrics." Yeah, just like any Holiday Inn lounge lizard feels the lyrics to "Feelings".
—Dion Holland, The Daily Collegian[40]
The song proved popular with both young and old listeners.[22] The public enjoyed hearing a supergroup of musicians singing together on one track, and felt satisfied in buying the record, knowing that the money would go towards a good cause.[22] People reported they bought more than one copy of the single, some buying up to five copies of the record.[41] One mother from Columbia, Missouri purchased two copies of "We Are the World", stating, "The record is excellent whether it's for a cause or not. It's fun trying to identify the different artists. It was a good feeling knowing that I was helping someone in need."[22]
According to music critic and Bruce Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh, "We Are the World" was not widely accepted within the rock music community.[42] The author revealed that the song was "despised" for what it was not: "a rock record, a critique of the political policies that created the famine, a way of finding out how and why famines occur, an all-inclusive representation of the entire worldwide spectrum of post-Presley popular music".[42] Marsh revealed that he felt some of the criticisms were right, while others were silly.[42] He claimed that despite the sentimentality of the song, "We Are the World" was a large scale pop event with serious political overtones.[42]

"We Are the World" was promoted with a music video, a video cassette, and several other items made available to the public, including books, posters, shirts and buttons.[47][48] All proceeds from the sale of official USA for Africa merchandise went directly to the famine relief fund. All of the merchandise sold well; the video cassette—entitled We Are the World: The Video Event—documented the making of the song, and became the ninth best-selling home video of 1985.[47]
The music video showed the recording of "We Are the World", and drew criticism from some. They felt that Michael Jackson was "unable to leave his ego at the door" in the video because he wore sequined socks, a single glove and sunglasses.[27] The singer claimed he had wanted to wear his signature socks so that the audience would be able to identify him; in the clip, the camera moves up his body, before resting on his face. The musician joked before filming, "People will know it's me as soon as they see the socks. Try taking footage of Bruce Springsteen's socks and see if anyone knows who they belong to."[24] Jackson was also criticized for filming and recording his solo piece privately, away from the other artists. The singer's supporters reasoned that Jackson was a perfectionist; recording in front of other big name artists would leave him awestruck and unable to perform at his best. His detractors suggested that Jackson liked to feel different from everybody else, and that he had wanted to emphasize the difference by erecting barriers around himself.[15]

On the morning of April 5, 1985 (Good Friday of that year), "We Are the World" received worldwide coverage. At 10:25 am, over 8000 radio stations simultaneously broadcast the song around the world. They played it to show their support for the relief of famine in Ethiopia.[27] The song was also broadcast by Muzak, a company which pipes background music into 110,000 stores and businesses in the US. It was the second time Muzak had played the sound of "human voice", the first being an announcement on the release of American hostages in Iran in 1981.[49] As the song was broadcast, hundreds of people sang along on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.[41][50] The simultaneous radio broadcast of "We Are the World" was repeated again the following Good Friday.[27]

One year after the release of "We Are the World", organizers noted that $44.5 million had been raised for USA for Africa's humanitarian fund. They stated that they were confident that they would reach an initial set target of $50 million.[60] By October 1986, it was revealed that their $50 million target had been met and exceeded; CBS Records gave USA for Africa a check for $2.5 million, drawing the total amount of money to $51.2 million.[61] USA for Africa's Hands Across America event had also raised a significant amount of money—approximately $24.5 million for the hungry in the US.[61]
Since its release, "We Are the World" has raised over $63 million for humanitarian causes.[62] Ninety percent of the money was pledged to African relief, both long and short term.[61][63] The long term initiative included efforts in birth control and food production.[63] The remaining 10 percent of funds was earmarked for domestic hunger and homeless programs in the US.[61][63] From the African fund, over 70 recovery and development projects were launched in seven African nations. Such projects included aid in agriculture, fishing, water management, manufacturing and reforestation. Training programs were also developed in the African countries of Mozambique, Senegal, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.[61]

"We Are the World" has been performed live by members of USA for Africa on several occasions both together and individually. One of the earliest such performances came in 1985, during the rock music concert Live Aid, which ended with more than 100 musicians singing the song on stage.[64][65] Harry Belafonte and Lionel Richie made surprise appearances for the live rendition of the song.[66] Michael Jackson would have joined the artists, but was "working around the clock in the studio on a project that he's made a major commitment to", according to his press agent, Norman Winter.[67]
An inaugural celebration was held for US President-elect Bill Clinton in January 1993.[68] The event was staged by Clinton's Hollywood friends at the Lincoln Memorial and drew hundreds of thousands of people.[68] Aretha Franklin, LL Cool J, Michael Bolton and Tony Bennett were among some of the musicians in attendance.[68][69] The celebration included a performance of "We Are the World", which involved Clinton, his daughter Chelsea, and his wife Hillary singing the song along with USA for Africa's Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.[68] The New York Times' Edward Rothstein commented on the event, stating, "The most enduring image may be of Mr. Clinton singing along in 'We Are the World', the first President to aspire, however futilely, to hipness."[70]
Michael Jackson died in June 2009, after suffering a cardiac arrest.[71] His memorial service was held several days later on July 7, and was reported to have been viewed by more than one billion people.[72] The finale of the event featured group renditions of the Jackson anthems "We Are the World" and "Heal the World".[73] The singalong of "We Are the World" was led by Darryl Phinnessee, who had worked with Jackson since the late 1980s.[73][74] It also featured co-writer Lionel Richie, Jackson's family and the late singer's children.[73][74] Following the performance, "We Are the World" re-entered the US charts for the first time since its 1985 release. The song debuted at number 50 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart.[75]
[edit]25th anniversary recording

Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie planned to organize a re-recording of "We Are the World" on January 28, 2010—the 25th anniversary of the original recording of the song. However, due to the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, these plans were postponed. The new version is now set to be recorded on February 1, 2010, and it will benefit the impoverished country.[76][77][78]

Since the release of "We Are the World", numerous songs have been recorded in a similar fashion, with the intent to aid famine victims throughout the world. One such example involved a supergroup of Latin musicians billed as "Hermanos del Tercer Mundo", or "Brothers of the Third World". Among the supergroup of 62 recording artists were Julio Iglesias, Jose Feliciano and Sergio Mendes. Their famine relief song was recorded in the same studio as "We Are the World". Half of the profits raised from the charity single was pledged to USA for Africa. The rest of the money was to be used for impoverished Latin American countries.[82]
The 20th anniversary of "We Are the World" was celebrated in 2005. Radio stations around the world paid homage to Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and USA for Africa's creation by simultaneously broadcasting the charity song. In addition to the simulcast, the milestone was marked by the release of a two-disc DVD called We Are the World: The Story Behind the Song.[83] Ken Kragen asserted that the reason behind the simulcast and DVD release was not for USA for Africa to praise themselves for doing a good job, but to "use it to do some more good [for the original charity]. That's all we care about accomplishing."[83] Harry Belafonte also commented on the 20th anniversary of the song. The entertainer acknowledged that "We Are the World" had "stood the test of time"; anyone old enough to remember it can still at least hum along.[84]

If you actually read this all the way to the end I will tell you this much- it is a shmae Prince missed recording with this group of amazing people. There are so many of my personal musical hero's singing, I truly wish I could have been (old enough and) sitting in a corner of that studio the night it was recorded!

1 comment:

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