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“We Are the World,” a charity record designed to help starving people in Africa, remains one of the most inspiring songs of the 1980s. It wasn’t an ordinary song. It was an attempt by artists from many genres to come together and help those in need. The music-buying public brought “We Are the World” to the top of the charts, showing they wanted to help too.

Now is a time where the world is facing another major crisis – the coronavirus (COVID-19). Lionel Richie, one of the many artists who worked on “We Are the World,” thinks the song can help us in these trying times. He sees value not only in its fundraising potential, but also in its message.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie with the Grammy Award they won for “We Are the World.” | Bettmann

The first two versions of ‘We Are the World’

“We are the world/We are the children/We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving.” These lyrics inspired people across the globe. The sight of so many artists singing it together – artists from different genres, races, and generations- made the lyrics so much more powerful.

The initial version of “We Are the World” was a charity record designed to raise money for victims of a famine in Ethiopia. The record sold 20 million copies and raised over $63 million. It was definitely an experiment worth repeating.

Later, the song was re-recorded as “We Are the World 25,” a charity single designed to help victims of the tragic 2010 Haitian earthquake. Whereas the original features many of the brightest stars of the 1980s, like Richie, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and Bruce Springsteen, the remake featured huge stars from the early 2010s, like Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus.

The video for “We Are the World”

What Lionel Richie said about a possible new version

In these horrible times, Richie is thinking about remaking the song a second time. He feels it can raises desperately needed funds. He also hopes a remake of the song can spread the original’s timeless message of unity.

Describing how what happens in one part of the world affects all of us, Richie said “What happened in China, in Europe, it came here. So if we don’t save our brothers there, it’s going to come home. It’s all of us. All of us are in this together.”

The video for “We Are the World 25 For Haiti”

Weeks ago, Richie noted 2020 marked the original song’s 35th anniversary. He initially wasn’t interested in making a big deal about that anniversary. However, the outbreak of the coronavirus has made him reconsider his plans. 

Initially, he wanted to write a new song for the pandemic. However, he realized “We Are the World” already expresses everything he wants to say. That stands as a testament to how well the original song’s lyrics can apply to numerous situations.

The original “We Are the World” was a star-studded affair. What stars will appear on a new recording? We will wait and see.

Also see: ‘Thriller’ Wasn’t One of Michael Jackson’s Biggest Hits