This iconic song was recorded in mid-January of 1985…& if you were alive in the 80’s or 90’s its tune is probably engrained in your head now, forever. As a retail single it sold over 20 mill copies, worldwide, & was the fastest-selling American pop single in history. What made the song so successful though – not in terms of copies sold, but in terms of its significance in history?
Yes – it’s one of the catchiest tunes of all time, & yes it was performed by a collection of some of the most talented artists of all time. But there is so much more to the backdrop & story:
The song was created to raise funds for: the United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa). This non-profit foundation would then feed & relieve starving people (many of them children) in Africa, specifically Ethiopia, where one million people died during the country’s famine from ‘83 – ‘85.
So – the album was a fundraiser – to get a WORLD of us realize that “those ppl” living in Africa, needed “our” help. “Those ppl” who don’t look like “us” & we’ll likely never meet, we’ll likely never talk to…needed help from “us.”
The songwriters (two of the greatest of all-time: Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie) had to successfully connect “them” & “us” as one world. The chorus we all know had to be unifying, & that it was: “We ARE the world. We ARE the children.”
While those are the most recognizable words, listen to many of the other unifying lyrics (here’s a combo of various parts of the song): “There comes a time – When we heed a certain call – When the world must come together as one. We can’t go on – Pretending day-by-day – That someone, somewhere soon will make a change. A change can only come – When we stand together as one.”
Also unifying was seeing so many DIFFERENT types of world famous artists, w DIFFERENT styles, giviving their own personal takes on the same words: from Warwick’s powerful pipes to Dylan’s raspy voice. Different stars from different backgrounds – this performance was a microcosm of the song’s amazing words & impact.
There’s no doubt that famine in Africa was beyond worthy of our commitment of coming together. One million died in famine in approximately 3 years. And what’s so ironic about that one million number is that (forget about how many of us are affected by general symptoms to varying degrees), but we lose one million people PER YEAR, worldwide, to suicide. It’s an epidemic too.
Mental health has been a silent epidemic & it can’t be silent anymore. No doubt I’m an idealist…& maybe my believing that instead of for one day, & for one category of celebrity (music), we can instead get MANY celebs from many different background to CONTINUOUSLY come together, hold hands, & attack this epidemic, together, is “crazy.” But we can’t stop trying. The price to pay in not doing it is too high. The truth is we ARE the world…and once again, we are at a place where we need to come together as one. It’s not about the sick vs the healthy. It’s not about the stigmatized vs those making the judgments. It’s about all of us. I think we can do it again. It’s been 30 years & that song/event has never been replicated. But this cause is beyond worth it – and we can’t stop building towards something on that same gigantic level, until we have begun to reverse & eliminate these negative trends.