20 R&B Stars Who Made "We Are The World" A Classic

January 28, 2016 Marks 31st Anniversary of "We Are The World" Recording Session

The all-star single "We Are The World" was recorded on January 28, 1985 and released March 7, 1985 to raise money to fight poverty, especially hunger, in Africa and the United States. Composed by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts, and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. It is one of the ten best selling singles of all-time.

Entertainer/social activist Harry Belafonte and Richie's manager Ken Kragen created the idea for the song and formed the non-profit organization USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). The organization's achievements include:

  • Raised more than $75 million to fight poverty in Africa
  • More than 6 million people joined hands to fight poverty in America
  • More than $25 million was raised across the US to fight hunger and homelessness in America.

"We Are The World" earned four Grammy Awards in 1985: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, and Best Music Video, Short Form.

Here are the "20 R&B Stars Who Made 'We Are The World' A Classic"

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Michael Jackson (soloist)

Quincy Jones, Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Richie on February 25 1986 at the 28th annual Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Michael Jackson composed "We Are The World" with Lionel Richie and is one of the soloists on the song. They won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1985.

A few of his incredible accomplishments:

He is most awarded artist in history. Among his hundreds of awards:

  • 13 Grammy Awards including winning a record eight Grammys in 1984. Also, a Grammy Living Legend Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 86 Billboard Awards
  • 26 American Music Awards, more than any other artist. He was named the American Music Awards "Artist of the Century" and "Artist of the 1980s"
  • 31 Guinness World Records including Best Selling Album in History for Thriller which has sold an estimated 65 million copies worldwide
  • 85 MTV Awards
  • 8 World Music Awards
  • 13 number one singles on the Billboard 100, more than any other male artist
  • First artist to have a Billboard 100 top ten single in five different decades: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
  • Estimated 400 million records sold worldwide
  • Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a member of The Jackson Five and as a solo artist
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Jackson Five and as a solo artist
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Lionel Richie (soloist)

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, February 25, 1986. Fotos International/Getty Images

Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson composed "We Are The World" which won a Grammy Award in 1985 for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Beginning as the lead singer of The Commodores before launching his solo career in 1982, Richie is one of the most successful male recording artists of all-time, selling over 100 million records worldwide. His honors include a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1984 for Can't Slow Down and Producer of the Year.

In 1986, he won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Say You, Say Me" from White Nights. Richie was also nominated for an Oscar for his duet with Diana Ross, the title tune of Endless Love.

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Quincy Jones (producer)

Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. Barry King/WireImage

Quincy Jones produced "We Are The World" which won a Grammy for the song for Record of the Year in 1985.

Jones has received 27 Grammys in his phenomenal career, and earned a record 79 Grammy nominations. His awards include an Emmy, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jones began his career as a teenager playing trumpet with Lionel Hampton, Later, he worked as an arranger and conductor for more legends including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington. He also recorded with Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sammy Davis Jr.

After establishing himself as the premier music producer, "Q" became a very successful media mogul, including founding Vibe magazine, and producing movies and television series. He launched the acting careers of Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple). Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and LL Cool J (In The House). He has also produced the Grammy Awards and The Academy Awards, as well as scoring over 25 films.

Jones has released over 35 albums as an artist and produced countless hits for other stars, including Michael Jackson. Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and George Benson. 

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Stevie Wonder (soloist)

Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. SGranitz/WireImage

Stevie Wonder is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." He has won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other male solo artist, and sold over 100 million singles and albums. In 1964, when he was 13 years old, Wonder became the youngest artist to hit number one on the Billboard 100 with his single "Fingertips." Signed at age 11 by Berry Gordy to Motown's Tamla label, Wonder has been recording for 53 years.

His many honors include an Oscar, Kennedy Center Honors, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the Billboard Century Award, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations.

Wonder is also a social activist, leading the campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.

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Diana Ross (soloist)

Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. Julian Wasser/Liaison

Diana Ross is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." As the former lead singer of the greatest female group of all-time, The Supremes, and one of the most successful and influential solo artists in history, Diana Ross is "The Boss." She hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 twelve times with The Supremes, and recorded numerous solo classics, including "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Endless Love" with Lionel Richie.

As an actress, she won a Golden Globe, and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her debut starring role in Lady Sings the Blues. Her numerous honors include Billboard's "Female Entertainer of the Century," and the Guinness Book of World Records declared her the most successful female music artist in history.

In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Supremes. She was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

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Tina Turner (soloist)

Tina Turner and Lionel Richie. Barry King/WireImage

Tina Turner is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." From beginning her career singing with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm to her exceptional solo career, Tina Turner has been one of the most influential and inspiring artists for over 50 years.

She is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has received eight Grammy Awards, including the 1985 Record of the Year for "What's Love Got To Do With It." Known as "The Queen of Rock and Roll," Turner has sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide.

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Ray Charles (soloist)

Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ray Charles is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." A childhood friend of producer Quincy Jones, he won 17 Grammy Awards. Charles was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981, and in 1986, he was one of the original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

His awards also include the Kennedy Center Honors, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the National Medal of Arts.

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Dionne Warwick (soloist)

Dionne Warwick and Quincy Jones. Michael Putland/Getty Images

Dionne Warwick is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." Recording over 50 years, Dionne Warwick has released numerous classics, including "Walk On By," "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," and "I Say A Little Prayer." In 1987, she recorded the AIDS benefit anthem, "That's What Friends Are For" with Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight. It won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, one of five Grammys she's received in her career.

Warwick is second only to Aretha Franklin as the most-charted female vocalist of all time, with 69 singles reaching the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.

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Al Jarreau (soloist)

Al Jarreau. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Al Jarreau is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." One of the most versatile male vocalists. Jarreau has been recording for nearly 40 years. He is a seven-time Grammy Award winner, including honors in the pop, jazz and R&B categories. Jarreau was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.

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James Ingram (soloist)

James Ingram. George Rose/Getty Images

James Ingram is one of the soloists on "We Are The World." He is a  two-time Grammy Award winner who was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Ingram has two number one Billboard Hot 100 singles: "Baby, Come to Me" in 1982 with Patti Austin, and "I Don't Have A Heart" in 1983.

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Smokey Robinson (chorus)

Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson. Mark Sullivan/WireImage for The Recording Academy

Smokey Robinson has received numerous awards including two Grammys, the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States. He has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In addition to composing songs for Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, he wrote and produced hits for other Motown acts including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Mary Wells, and The Marvelettes. He was also a Motown Vice President.

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Harry Belafonte (chorus)

Harry Belafonte. Ebet Roberts/Redferns

"We Are The World" was the brainchild of entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte. He created USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) with artist manager Ken Kragen and is the Vice President of the non-profit foundation.

Belafonte began his career as a calypso singer in the 1950s and recorded over 35 albums. He is also an acclaimed actor appearing in over 30 films. His honors include three Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy, a Tony, the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame..

As a social activist, he was an adviser to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Marlon Jackson (chorus)

Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson and Randy Jackson. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marlon Jackson made history as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1970 when the group became the first recording act to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with their first four singles: "I Want You Back", "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There." Their first three albums also hit number one: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, ABC, and Third Album. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

In addition to performing and recording with The Jackson Five/The Jacksons, Marlon released one solo album, Baby Tonight in 1987. It featured the single "Don't Go" which reached number two on the Billboard R&B chart.

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Tito Jackson (chorus)

Tito Jackson playing guitar on stage with Martln, Michael, and Randy Jackson. Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Tito Jackson is the guitarist for The Jacksons. He has also performed as a blues artist, and his three sons, Toriano, Taryll, and Tito Joe, comprise the group 3T.

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Randy Jackson (chorus)

Marlon, Michael and Randy Jackson. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

Randy Jackson is the youngest of the Jackson brothers and began performing with The Jackson Five in 1971 when he was 15 years old. He composed The Jackson's 1978 platinum single "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" with brother Michael.

Randy played percussion on Michael's 1979 Off The Wall album, and released a solo album, Randy and the Gypsys, in 1989.

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Jackie Jackson

Marlon, Jackie and Michael Jackson. Gus Stewart/Redferns

Jackie Jackson is the oldest member of The Jacksons. In addition to performing and touring with the group. he released two solo albums: a self-titled disc in 1973, and Be the One in 1989.

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La Toya Jackson (chorus)

Michael and La Toya Jackson. Jeffrey Mayer/GettyImages

La Toya Jackson launched her career performing with her brothers and sisters in The Jacksons CBS-TV variety series in 1976 and 1977. She released nine solo albums, and starred on television in The Apprentice on NBC, and Life with La Toya on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).

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The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters. Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

The Pointer Sisters from Oakland, California won three Grammys, three American Music Awards. and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The family group achieved thirteen top 20 Billboard hits between 1973 and 1985, including "I'm So Excited," "Jump (For My Love)," "Automatic," "Fire" and "Fairytale."

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Sheila E. (chorus)

Sheila E. Paul Natkin/WireImage

Sheila E. (Sheila Escovedo) is the greatest female drummer/percussionist of all-time, working over four decades with a wide variety of stars including Prince, Beyonce, Lionel Richie, Santana, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Herbie Hancock, and George Duke.

She released seven solo albums, and hit number two on the Billboard R&B chart with her 1985 single, "Love Bizarre." Escovedo was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1985.

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Jeffrey Osborne (chorus)

Jeffrey Osborne. Ron Wolfson/WireImage

Recording for over 40 years. Jeffrey Osborne hit number one with three singles on the Billboard R&B chart as the lead vocalist of the band L.T.D., including "Love Ballad" in 1976. He began his solo career in 1982 and released the platinum album Stay With Me Tonight in 1983.