The final night of recording was held on January 28, 1985, at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood. Michael Jackson arrived at 9 pm, earlier than the other artists, to record his solo section and record a vocal chorus by himself. He was subsequently joined in the recording studio by the remaining USA for Africa artists, who 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. Many of the participants came straight from an American Music Award ceremony, which had been held that same night. 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.
The reason given for his absence has varied. One newspaper claimed that the singer did not want to record with other acts. 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”. Prince did, however, donate an exclusive track, “4 The Tears In Your Eyes”, for the We Are the World album. In all, more than 45 of America’s top musicians participated in the recording, and another 50 had to be turned away. 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.” 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
We Are the World
“We Are the World” is a song and charity single originally recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie (with arrangements by Michael Omartian) and produced by Quincy Jones for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of the fewer than 30 all-time singles to have sold at least 10 million copies worldwide.
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. The duo completed the writing of “We Are the World” seven weeks after the release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, and one night before the song’s first recording session, on January 21, 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 Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Awarded numerous honors—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” and raised over $63 million (equivalent to $136 million today) for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US.
Following the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, a remake of the song by another all-star cast of singers was recorded on February 1, 2010. Entitled “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”, it was released as a single on February 12, 2010, and proceeds from the record aided survivors in the impoverished country.