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The song "We Are the World," thirty years later

The final recording session of the anthem was Jan. 28, 1985.

By Ed Adamczyk
The song "We Are the World," thirty years later
Record producer Quincy Jones makes comments about the late pop star Michael Jackson during a hand & footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on January 26, 2012. UPI/Jim Ruymen | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- "We Are the World," a song recorded by an ad hoc super-group of pop stars to aid African fund famine relief, had its 30th anniversary Wednesday.

The Los Angeles recording session has achieved legendary historical status in popular music, a night in which 45 music stars, in Los Angeles to attend the American Music Awards, entered a studio, famously checked their egos at the door and, under the direction of producer Quincy Jones, recorded a catchy, memorable classic which sold over 20 million copies. It took a week for every performer to have his or her turn recorded, the final session on Jan. 28, 1985.

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Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie are among those whose voices can be heard in brief solos. Smokey Robinson, Waylon Jennings and Bette Midler were not soloists on the recording but were present in what may be the most notable chorus ever assembled. The night of the final session remains a fabled collection of memories and anecdotes.

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The composers, Jackson and Richie, finished writing the song the night before their deadline. Autographs were swapped, with the stars, working together under the stage name "USA for Africa," in awe of each other. Cyndi Lauper inadvertently ruined a solo with her jangling jewelry. A second song was performed at the session: the "Banana Boat Song," better known as "Day-O," in honor of Harry Belafonte, who organized the effort.

The event brought together the most famous and recognizable music artists of the era and sales of the over seven-minute record raised over $60 million for African relief.

The song still gets airplay on classic rock radio, and with "Do They Know It's Christmas?," recorded by a collection of British rock stars several weeks earlier, set a template for artists performing music in the cause of philanthropy. What followed, and continues, were Christmas songs, one-night-only gatherings of diverse performers and recordings by unlikely duets for charity.

"We Are the World" remains an anthem designed as a singalong, and its sales are noteworthy in that only about 30 single recordings have ever sold more than 10 million copies.

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