1985: “We Are The World” Helps Fight Famine in Ethiopia

USA for Africa sings “We Are The World.”

On this date in 1985, the charity song “We Are The World” was released.

Here are some things you may not have known about it.

More than a million people died as a result of a widespread famine in Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985, in the midst of more than two decades of insurrection and civil war.

In response to this, musician Bob Geldof organized a supergroup of mostly British and Irish musicians called Band Aid to record a charity single called “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

The song ended up raising 8 million pounds in the first year.

Inspired by the success, Harry Belafonte decided to organize an American version.

Calling the group USA For Africa, the USA standing for United Support of Artists, the group would raise money for African famine relief and to fight hunger in the United States. Belafonte called on entertainment manager Ken Kragen, whose clients included Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers. Stevie Wonder was the third artist to join up.

Quincy Jones was brought on to co-produce the song, and he convinced Michael Jackson to join the effort.

Jackson, Richie and Wonder were initially assigned songwriting duties, but Wonder had to drop out because of time constraints. Jackson and Richie spent a week working together on the song. The duo completed writing the song the night before recording was scheduled to begin.

On the night of Jan. 22, Jackson, Richie, Wonder and Jones recorded a vocal guide of the song to send to the artists who would be participating in the full recording session about a week later.

At about 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, musicians began gathering at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood. The final version was completed at about 8 a.m.

The song was released on March 7, and went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 after two weeks, becoming the second song after “Let It Be” by The Beatles to his No. 1 so quickly.

The song topped Billboard’s Adult Contemporary, R&B and Dance charts as well. It hit No. 27 on the Mainstream Rock chart and 76 on the Country Singles chart.

A videotape of the recording session ended up being the ninth best-selling home video of the year.

The song also topped the charts in 15 other countries, and was the year-end No. 1 hit in Australia and New Zealand.

Since its release, the song has raised more than $63 million for USA For Africa’s humanitarian fund.

Our question: Who was the only singer on “We Are The World” who also played an instrument on the track?

Today is Teachers’ Day in Albania.

It’s unofficially National Sportsmanship Day, National Cereal Day, and Peace Corps Day.

It’s the birthday of Janet Guthrie, the first woman to race in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, who turns 79; actress and comedian Wanda Sykes, who is 53; and actress Jenna Fischer, who is 43.

This week in 1985, the top song in the U.S. was “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon.

The No. 1 movie was “Beverly Hills Cop,” while the novel “If Tomorrow Comes” by Sidney Sheldon topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: For which book, later turned into a movie, did James Michener win the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for fiction?

Submit your answer at triviapeople.com/test and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at triviapeople.com. We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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