There comes a time, when we heed a certain call…
Not only a fine singer and performer, both with the Commodores and with his solo career, Lionel Richie will forever be remembered for his involvement with USA for Africa’s 1985 song “We Are the World,” which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson.
Man, can I just say that in 1985 I was ALL about Africa? I mean, I had the white sweatshirt that Kenny Rogers and others are wearing in the video. I had a poster of the whole chorus of singers on my bedroom wall.
I had (still have) the 45 single. I FORGOT I had the 45 and eagerly purchased a second copy of it when I found it at the local Salvation Army.
Produced by Quincy Jones, the idea to record the song (and the entire album) stemmed from singer Harry Belafonte’s desire to record something that would benefit the nonprofit United Support of Artists for Africa, which focused its efforts on alleviating starvation in Africa. Kenny Rogers, who I previously talked about in regards to his work and friendship with Lionel, was also instrumental in bringing the project together; he helped to rally the efforts of other singers and also provided Jones and company the use of his Lion Share Recording Studio, although the main group recording of the seminal song would later take place at A&M Recording Studio in Los Angeles.
The single for “We Are the World” sold more than 20 million copies. You may be surprised to know that “We Are the World” actually came to fruition a year after the celebrity-heavy Band Aid song in the U.K. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” I never realized that, I thought it was the other way around. Although, perhaps “…Christmas” just gained more prominence here in the States because of the success of the multi-artist “…World” recording. Or maybe I just have a crap memory!
Years later, while watching MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour, comedian Kevin Meaney did a hilarious reinterpretation, karaoke-style, of the song. He really nails his imitations of some of the singers. While the below clip is not from the MTV show (based on the curtains, I think it’s from an ’80s episode of The Tonight Show), it still captures the fun. His karaoke starts at the 2 minute mark.