We Are the World

Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, 1985

The United Nations estimates that food shortages in Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985 led to one million deaths. What factors contributed to and worsened the famine?

How does the song try to compel listeners to help?

What is the significance of including so many popular artists in the song? How does it amplify the song's message?

"We Are the World" performed by USA for Africa on We Are the World, © 1985. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube (official video).


For more information on USA for Africa, visit their official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source


We are the World
Artists recording "We Are the World."

On January 28, 1985, a group of over forty musicians convened in a recording studio in Los Angeles to record the song "We Are the World." The list of superstars included Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, and Stevie Wonder, and the collective group was known as USA (United Support of Artists) for Africa. The song, conceived by Harry Belafonte, written by Ritchie and Jackson, and arranged and produced by Quincy Jones, was recorded to raise money to fight famine in Ethiopia and other African nations. The "charity single" raised more than $75 million.

The song is designed to inspire Americans from different backgrounds and races to put aside their prejudices and come together to support people in need in Africa. Multiculturalism is portrayed in the artists that participate in the song and heard in the distinct styles in which they sing. Artists such as Ritchie and Jackson perform in a style typical of R&B, which is contrasted, for example, with the country twang of Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson, the rasp of rocker Bruce Springsteen, and the edginess of punk musician Cyndi Lauper. The song begins quietly and builds to a rousing chorus sung by the whole ensemble: "We are the world / We are the children / We are the ones who make a brighter day / So let's start giving."

"We Are the World" won a Grammy for song of the year in 1996. It was also released with nine other songs on an album, We Are the World, which won record of the year. After its release, artists from other areas of the world, such as Canada, Germany, Finland, and Australia recorded their own singles for various causes. In 2010, a group of musicians remade the song to raise money for the relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but the song did not have the same impact as the original version.



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