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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Michael Jackson - We Are the World

"We Are the World" is a 1985 song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced and conducted by Quincy Jones and recorded by a supergroup of 45 popular musicians billed as USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). The charity single was intended to raise funds to help famine-relief efforts in Ethiopia, which had experienced unusual drought and political instability in 1984 and 1985. Sales from the single and accompanying album and video ultimately raised over $63 million for the famine relief.

The song was inspired by the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which had been released a few months prior in November 1984. After that performance, which mostly included British musicians, Band Aid organizer Bob Geldof attempted to contact American musicians for an American Christmas charity single, but he had little luck in getting the musicians to reorganize their schedules for recording. Harry Belafonte, who had not been contacted by Geldof, contacted music manager Ken Kragen about putting together a concert to help raise money for African causes.

A temporary but severe drought in Ethiopia during 1984/1985 had decimated local food supplies, and famine relief was still needed for 6 countries, noted by the United Nations (UN): Ethiopia (commonly in news reports), Chad, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Mozambique. Kragen, the manager of Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, didn't believe that a concert would make enough of a difference and suggested a charity single instead, including about a dozen artists. However, response from musicians was overwhelming, and Kragen turned down about 50 artists who wished to appear on the song.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote the song for the group, knowing there were people dying in Africa. Quincy Jones agreed to produce and sent a demo to all the participating artists, along with a note to "check their egos at the door".

The song was performed as the finale of Michael Jackson's July 7, 2009 memorial service at Staples Centre in Los Angeles after the death of Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009. The song featured religous symbols and portraits by photographer Steve McCurry.


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