07 March 2017

"We Are The World" (1985)

In the mid-1980s I took advantage of the new VHS technology to start building a library of video entertainment - especially classic movies and seemingly memorable sports events.  Those mostly-unwatched tapes traveled with me for thirty years from Kentucky to Indiana to Missouri to Wisconsin.  Now I'm at that point were I need to "declutter" my life, and the VHS tapes need to go.  Goodwill doesn't want them, so this winter I've been giving all my old tapes one "goodbye" watch just to sort of justify to myself the trouble and expense of having stored and transported them for so long.

Mostly it was a wasted effort. The movies are available now in better definition from the library and Netflix (except for some of the oldest Hitchcock ones that weren't that good anyway).  The Kentucky basketball and football games that were thrilling in 1988 mean nothing to me now (but I'll keep the Minnesota Twins World Series appearances, because they may never have another one).

Then there's the rock videos.  In that era I typically spent New Year's eve at home, and I used those occasions to copy MTV's "top 100 videos" of the year.  So for the last few evenings I've revisited 1985 and 1986.

Mostly it's a vast wasteland.  Video after video with enormously "big hair" and concert venue recordings.  There are some that break the mold and show some artistic innovation (a-ha's "Take on Me" comes to mind).  And then there was the embed above.  It was interesting to see how many of the soloists I could recognize (I think about 15 out of 20 or so, plus another half-dozen in the chorus).  But Dan Aykroyd? - maybe because of Blues Brothers?

Coincidentally I note that today is the anniversary of the release of "We Are the World," so here's some things-I-didn't-know (or forgot):
The first ever single to be certified multi-platinum, "We Are the World" received a Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.

(Lionel)Richie had recorded two melodies for "We Are the World", which (Michael) Jackson took, adding music and words to the song in the same day. Jackson stated, "I love working quickly. I went ahead without even Lionel knowing, I couldn't wait. I went in and came out the same night with the song completed—drums, piano, strings, and words to the chorus."

The single most damaging piece of information is where we're doing this. If that shows up anywhere, we've got a chaotic situation that could totally destroy the project."

Quincy Jones' associate producer and vocal arranger, Tom Bahler, was given the task of matching each solo line with the right voice.

They were also greeted by Stevie Wonder, who proclaimed that if the recording was not completed in one take, he and Ray Charles, two blind men, would drive everybody home.

Despite the song's commercial success, "We Are the World" received mixed reviews from journalists, music critics and the public following its release. American journalist Greil Marcus felt that the song sounded like a Pepsi jingle. He wrote, "... the constant repetition of 'There's a choice we're making' conflates with Pepsi's trademarked 'The choice of a new generation'.

According to music critic and Bruce Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh, "We Are the World" was not widely accepted within the rock music community. The author revealed that the song was "despised" for what it was not: "a rock record, a critique of the political policies that created the famine..."

Since its release, "We Are the World" has raised over $63 million (equivalent to $138 million today) for humanitarian causes.

1 comment:

  1. This was one of those videos that touched those of us that were of a certain age. The only issue I had with the song was the line "As God has shown us, by turning stone to bread." Why? The story of the temptation makes it clear that Jesus REFUSED to turn the stone to bread. No big deal. Just my little issue.


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