Song: “We Are The World” by USA For Africa
Reached #1: April 13, 1985 (their first, 4 weeks)
Check your egos at the door.
That may have been the greatest musical accomplishment of the USA For Africa project – getting this collection of megastars to contribute to a charity single without bringing their massive egos to the project.
Of course, the real accomplishment was raising millions to help fight famine in Africa.
Looking back, I don’t know if we can say the song really had the on-the-ground impact that Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and Stevie Wonder wanted when they conceived the project. After all, no matter how many singles (and T-shirts, and other licensed merchandise) was sold, it wasn’t going to be enough money to solve the problem. And many people bought the song without ever understanding why, so the exposure was kind of muted.
And I’m sure you’ll find people who call this (and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” the year before) a predecessor of “slacktivism”, the idea that by making a statement about something, you’re actually helping fix it. For many of the artists, this was everything they ever did about African famine. To be fair, some artists did learn from this and have continued to lend their support – but for most, this became their version of an Internet petition. They “helped”.
25 years later, both in tribute to Michael Jackson and to raise money for Haiti after the disastrous earthquake, a new group of artists re-recorded the song (and added a somewhat controversial rap segment). Even with massive exposure – two airings on NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage – “We Are The World 25 For Haiti” didn’t make it to #1 in the USA. OK, it got to #2. But still… times changed. By 2010, this kind of superstar collaboration wasn’t rare. And the world was a bit more cynical.
Tomorrow, what happens when Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins co-write a single? It goes to #1, of course…
Other songs that reached #1 on April 13:
1957 – Two songs hit #1 on different charts:
* “Butterfly” by Charlie Gracie (his first, 2 weeks, Juke Boxes chart)
* “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires (Elvis’ sixth, 11 weeks, Best Sellers chart)
1959 – “Come Softly To Me” by the Fleetwoods (their first, 4 weeks)
1968 – “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro (his first, 5 weeks)
1974 – “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John (his second, 1 week)
1991 – “I’ve Been Thinking About You” by Londonbeat (their first, 1 week)