Stories From A Life

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Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


JUNE 6, 2009 6:55PM

"We Are The World" (If Only) *UPDATED FOR MICHAEL

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 mj watw

 * Thursday, June 25, 2009 ... A legend died this day. A giant in the world of pop music. Like him or not, Michael Jackson was one of the most talented artists, gifted performers and universal trend setters the popular music business has ever seen.

We will not see his like again. He was unique. A troubled original. A son, a brother, a father, a friend. A pedophile too? Not according to a jury. We've all drawn our own conclusions. I know I have.

I will not mock him today. Or canonize him. He was an musician and a man. His huge body of work speaks for itself. He was --and made-- Music History.

Here's a piece of history that represents the best of Michael Jackson. That --and all his outstanding contributions to the world of music entertainment-- is what we should remember. And allow his children to retain.

The amazing, heartstopping, historic video is below.


"Check your egos at the door." Quincy Jones

There has never been anything in the music business quite like the single recording session in 1985 of the song We Are The World by a unified group of music superstars called U.S.A. for Africa ... United Support of Artists for Africa.

We Are The World was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced and directed by the legendary Quincey Jones, performed by 45 diverse members of American popular music royalty.

It's unlikely ever to happen again.

The idea came from Calypso singing star Harry Belafonte, based on the first Live Aid concerts held in July of 1985 in London and Philadelphia for African famine relief. Proceeds from the
We Are The World single and the subsequent album would go to relief organizations in Ethiopia, Sudan and other African countries.

And so an unusual gathering of pop music's biggest names came together in a Columbia Records studio to record the We Are The World single in one night.

watw artists

Just the artists. No managers, no entourages allowed. Were there some bumps and bruises along the way? Sure. But far less than anyone expected. The stars pretty much followed Quincy Jones's repeated message, "Check your egos at the door."

It's reported that most were relaxed, chatting,
exchanging memories, some asking each other for autographs, and even phone numbers.

Jones decided where everyone should stand and had a piece of tape with each artist's name placed on the floor.

Michael Jackson skipped the American Music Awards ceremony that night to record the chorus of the song as a guide to the other artists.

My favorite tidbit, recounted by Lional Richie, is of Bob Dylan asking Stevie Wonder for help. “Bob happened to ask a very unusual question. ‘God, how do I sing this part?’ Stevie turned up to him and said, ‘Just sound like Bob Dylan.’ ”

That's what you'll see --and hear-- throughout this video. The lyrics and melody are the same, but every musician puts his or her own very distinctive stamp on the delivery. With your eyes closed you know exactly who's singing each line.

If you've never seen this, Please, don't pass it up. If it's been a long time, here's your chance for a trip down memory lane. Names and more info follow the video. (Especially helpful if you say to yourself, Who is that??)

This is for Jon and all others who should have the lyrics. (I could not find a captioned version).  We Are The World - USA for Africa - Lyrics 


The single, the video and the album that followed, along with a citizen participation effort called Hands Across America raised almost $100 million for famine relief.

Both the single and the album won 1985 Grammies for Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

A portion of the single had to be re-recorded because Cyndi Lauper's jewelry created a loud clicking noise.

The single was recorded the night of the American Music Awards so most artists came directly to the studio in their limousines. Bruce Springsteen drove up in his own pickup truck.

Solos (in order of appearance)
Lionel Richie
Stevie Wonder
Paul Simon
Kenny Rogers
James Ingram
Tina Turner
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson
Diana Ross
Dionne Warwick
Willie Nelson
Al Jarreau
Bruce Springsteen
Kenny Loggins
Steve Perry
Daryl Hall
Huey Lewis
Cyndi Lauper
Kim Carnes
Bob Dylan
Ray Charles

Backup singers
Dan Aykroyd
Harry Belafonte
Lindsey Buckingham
The News
Sheila E.
Bob Geldof
Jackie Jackson
LaToya Jackson
Marlon Jackson
Randy Jackson
Tito Jackson
Waylon Jennings
Bette Midler
John Oates
Jeffrey Osborne
The Pointer Sisters
Smokey Robinson

Linda Ronstadt (had the flu)
Madonna (turmed them down flat)
Pat Benatar (too pregnant)
Prince (later contributed to the album and a television performance of the song)


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When we were young and dared to dream...
I remember this as though it were yesterday. Thanks for the nostalgic moment.
Steve, glad you enjoyed. Somebody sent a link to my sister who sent it to me and I had to share. Fun to see them all so Young too.
Oh my God! I remember... I was a teen, and I loved the atmosphere of celebration and union when I first watched the video, plus the song! A classic. Thanks for taking me back in time to those years of good dreams...
That song made me cry, no only with the sadness of seeing those starving children but also with the idea that we really could all come together. I still hope, still, still ...
Bob Geldof, who started this ball rolling with Band Aid, is one of my personal heroes. His passion for eradicating poverty in Africa is inspirational.

People with influence should do this stuff more often.
I loved this song - and I stood for hours in the middle of a cornfield hours from Chicago holding hands with some friends and strangers, listening on the radio for the moment when they said everyone was linked and they played the song. It was so isolated, if we hadn't had the radios we wouldn't have had a clue that anyone else in the country was doing the same thing. Thanks for the memory!
I remember this so well. It was such a great song/coming together and such a great cause. Now there would be American Idols and rappers and we have such a polarization we'd hear about it on Fox news. And they would call it a conspiracy. Another time, another world. Sigh.
I was never crazy about the song, and that many performers with egos as big as Texas can be detrimental to the product, but hey...their hearts were all in the right place, and that means a heck of a lot. More importantly, their efforts almost certainly saved lives. Kudos to all who took part in it.
I remember it too...though maybe it wasn't yesterday. It seemed so right then. It still seems right to do it again. We still need to be the world. Thanks for bringing this to us again when we really need unity.
That was a time! I was in Germany, and we were all going crazy over it!
The photo hearkens much cocaine, and even more hairspray. Regrettably United Support of Artists for Africa was a dismally squandered opportunity to prevent the atrocities that continued and worsened on that sad continent.
This brings back some sweet memories, thankee. What fine energy they were putting out. I'm still daring to dream... :)
This was a lovely memory and SO much fun to watch again. I'll be sharing it with my rock-music loving son. Thank you Sally!
This was recorded yesterday---right?

Sure seems that way.
Marcela and Zuma, so amazing that you saw it too, from Germany to Argentina. The video seen round the world before Internet make that concept routine.

Lairderg, I'm an optimist and keep hoping too.

Natalie, Bob Geldof is one of my heroes as well. We need more like him.

mamoore, we were linked! I stood on a street in Philadelphia with a radio station's truck blaring the towns and the music.

Lea, sadly you're right. Such cynicism and self-promotion and cruelty now. It was there then too but so much hope was still alive.

Steve, that's it.. their hearts were in the right place.

Carol, LuluandPhoebe, if only we could do it again. The simultaneous international Live Aid concerts don't seem to have the same underlying passion somehow.

Pablo, USA for Africa wasn't a total failure. We know now how much corruption existed on the receiving end, but some aid did get through to the people and still does. We must do better.

dynomyte, annette, Roger, the past as prologue, right? We do have to keep trying. And teaching our children well.
Sally, Great Post. I may be wrong, but I thought the idea came from the "Concert for Bangledesh"organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shanker in 71'. But, no matter, this was an excellent post and brought by some great memories.
Oh, and Wayland Jennings got mad and walked out. Sorry.
Good of you to remember. Our town added barely one off-ramp to "Hands" but it made the paper. (There were lots of gaps out west.)
I can't believe this was *mumble* years ago. Sigh. Thanks for the memory jog.
scanner, Geldof might have gotten his idea from the '71 concert, but USA for Africa really did come from Harry Belafonte and Lional Richie based on Geldof's Band Aid, though originally they wanted it to be an all Black singers effort for Africa. Jennings did leave in a huff, I forgot to mention that.

Stacey, I bet there were a lot of gaps but still, Hands Across America was pretty cool.

Penrose, Buffy, no matter if we were just teeny tiny little tots, we remember it well, right? ;)
Who says there's no such thing as a time machine -- I remember this well.
Oh, and I also remember this was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, and I remember the Guess Who singing this wholly unlikely lyric:

Maybe I'll be there to take your hand
Maybe I'll be there to share the land
That they'll be givin' away
When we all live together

Ah, fantasy! What we got instead was Supply-Siders running the world into the ground and walking away with ALL the money.
Ah, Tom, right as usual. But no rating for old times sake? :)
It's impolite to count ;-p
I got all teary - probably for my squandered youth ;-)
That did bring back memories. They all look so young! And there are some odd faces in there in the background - -Dan Ackroyd?? LaToya??

They really relied on Bruce to bring the rock cred. I like how everyone sounds so much themselves - almost a parody of their idiosyncratic styles.

My fave story about that session was that Quincy very smartly waited to record the solos last, after all the choruses had been done. He figured no one would leave before doing their solo, but the other way around.... heh.
BTW, Bob Geldof's 1980's autobio, "Is That It?" is a great read, as much for his reminiscences of his upbringing in Dublin and early rock experiences as for his quite detailed accounts of doing Live Aid, and all the meetings he had with world leaders while doing fundraising. And it's a good thing he wrote it before his life fell apart and negative stuff came out about him...!
Kelly, I figure if we lived our youth with gusto, it wasn't squandered. ;)

Silkstone, you always have the best extra credit info to add to the story. I didn't know about the solos, but it makes perfect sense. Ackroyd was there representing The Blues Brothers and the 'Movie Industry' or so they claim.

Wouldn't you also count Cyndi Lauper in the rock cred? Very surprised at some left out of the solos, especially Belafonte, Smokey, and Waylon. He flounced out over a lyrics disagreement, but didn't have a solo anyway. And how 'bout Madonna and Prince turning them down? At least Prince begged for inclusion and finally got it on TV.

As for the Jackson clan, hey, if you co-write the song and are as hot as Jacko was then (think "Thriller"), I guess you can bring whoever you want. I guess for all of them, we have to remember who was hot and who was not. Jeez, Bette Midler just barely in the picture.
Cyndi's pretty rock on that song but I don't think of her as a rocker. She had that new wave post-punk thing going, but was in many ways a classic pop balladeer. (what happened to her anyway? she was great) Whereas Bruce is a classic rocker and definitely doing the rock n rasp on that recording!

As for Madonna....clearly that was before her humanitarian phase. ;)
goosebumps on goosebumps. thank you for this. at christmas, will you do the same thing for the christmas song? that song slays me too. do they know its christmas time at all? feed the world...(i'm singing this by the way. is it translating?)
Poor Michael. Only 50. Just tragic. For all he was or wasn't, he gave so much.