Today we are going to talk about a very special and popular English song: We are the World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
“We Are the World” is a charity single. This means that the song was made for the purpose of helping poor people. It was released in March 1985. At that time, the song supported victims of famine* in Africa.
*famine = a serious lack of food in a country or place
“We Are the World” was sung by a supergroup.
Do you know what a supergroup is?
A supergroup is a music group whose members are already successful artists. For example, the people who performed “We Are the World” were superstars of the 1980s like Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Cindy Lauper, etc.
“We Are the World” became a hit and topped music charts around the world. Many people bought the album and it was the first single ever to be certified multi-platinum.
Fans enjoyed the song because many famous artists, from different genres and of different nationalities, were singing together. Plus, they knew that the money they spent to buy it would go to charity*.
*charity = a group that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.
Aside from record sales, there were also donations and other official products. In all, “We Are the World” was able to raise $63 million. 90% of this amount was donated to Africa.
In terms of awards, the song won 3 Grammys, 1 American Music Award, and 1 People’s Choice Award.
Below is the original 1985 music video:
In January 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. To help victims of the earthquake, another supergroup was formed by over 80 artists. This group performed a remake of “We Are the World” to reach a new generation of listeners.
The title of the remake was “We are the World 25 for Haiti” because 25 years had passed since the original. It was recorded in the same studio as the 1985 song. The recording lasted 14 ½ hours and involved artists like Justin Bieber, Josh Groban, Mary J. Bilge, Janet Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Miley Cyrus, Enrique Iglesias, Wyclef Jean, Pink, Usher, Celine Dion, Fergie, Charice, Toni Braxton, Carlos Santana, Lil Wayne, Akon, T-pain, will.i.am, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Shakira, the Jonas brothers, Jason Mraz, and Rob Thomas.
“We Are the World 25 for Haiti” includes a rap about Haiti. Sadly, Michael Jackson died months before its release. But his voice and video appearance from the 1985 song was used to make a new duet with his sister Janet Jackson.
The remake also became a success, reaching the top 20 of music charts in many countries.
This is the official video of We Are the World 25 Haiti:
Eight days after the release of “We Are the World 25 for Haiti,” a collaboration* song and music video was made and uploaded to Youtube to also help victims of the Haiti earthquake.
*collaboration = working together with someone to make something
This Youtube edition was produced by singer-songwriter Lisa Lavie and the artists who joined were contestants from America’s Got Talent and American Idol like Thia Megia and Jessica Sanchez. Many of the singers were ordinary people, not celebrities.
Making the video was a big challenge because, unlike with the “We Are the World 25 Haiti,” the 57 singers in the Youtube version didn't perform in one studio. In fact, the singers didn’t know each other. They just recorded their parts separately and then sent them through the Internet to be edited and mixed. The video took about three days to make.
In the video you can see a fourteen-year-old high school student singing in his bedroom in Perth, Australia and a young woman singing in her bathroom in Montreal, Canada. There’s also a community college student and a receptionist at a hair salon.
Just two days after the video was uploaded, it had already received half a million views. The video also grabbed the attention of the media because of how it gathered 57 different singers from all over the world and made them one through technology and a spirit of unity*.
*unity = a situation in which people join together
It was literally “We are the World.”
Of course people couldn’t help comparing the Youtube version with “We Are the World 25 Haiti” because even though its singers were not famous, they could make a viral* video.
*viral = very popular and spreading very quickly
Here is the Youtube collaboration video:
Below are the lyrics of the song. The words are quite simple and easy to understand, but I have added some explanation for expressions that may be unfamiliar to some learners:
We Are the World
There comes a time when we heed* a certain call
*heed = consider; pay attention to
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand* to life
*lend a hand = help
The greatest gift of all
We can't go on pretending* day by day
*pretend = act like something is true but it’s not
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It’s true we'll make a better day
Just you and me
Send them your heart so they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread*
*turn stones to bread = a mention of the Bible. It’s not clear, but
it means the making of food from nothing
So we all must lend a helping hand
When you're down and out*, there seems no hope at all
*down and out = without any money or support
But if you just believe, there's no way we can fall
Let us realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one
“We Are the World” did something important for society. It taught people to be united and to help one other. It’s also a good song and will be remembered by many people through different generations.
Like singer and actor Harry Belafonte said:
First and foremost… we truly have the capacity to make a difference, and what “We Are the World” did was define the best of who and what we are.
Hope You Learned Something!