The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia

Above: To raise money for the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia, 45 popular singers collaborated to record the charity single "We Are the World", co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. They included Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and many more. (Photo: United Support of Artists for Africa)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, June 28, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The wrenching images of hungry children, which invaded living rooms around the world in the mid 80′s, prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to organize the 1985 Live Aid concert and ‘raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia’. The multi-nation event, which showcased some of the biggest names in the music industry, included Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the project’s signature song “We Are the World” along with Lionel Richie.

The song was recorded on the night of January 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards.

Michael Jackson skipped the A&M Studios ceremony in Hollywood, California in order to prepare the song track as a guide for the rest of the singers, whom he helped persuade to participate in the charity concert. The documentary ” We Are the World: The Story Behind the Song” , described by the New York Times as a film “which examines how the song was written, how producer Quincy Jones and songwriters Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie persuaded some of the most popular performers in America to donate their services to the project…,” highlights Michael Jackson’s important contribution to one of the biggest people-to-people humanitarian projects focusing on Africa. Participating artists included: Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Bob Geldof, and many more.

A quick search in Wiki about the song reveals an intense moment of artistic conflict during rehearsal:

“The dispute started when Stevie Wonder announced that he would like to substitute a line in Swahili. After a few rehearsals, a full-fledged creative conflict broke out. Geldof pointed out that Ethiopians do not speak Swahili. Michael Jackson then proposed to keep his original line “Sha-lim sha-lingay” but after a few rehearsals, it too ran into opposition, because it does not have a meaning. Eventually Al Jarreau cried, “We can make a meaning” and came up with “One World, our word” which was changed one last time in “One world, our children.”


23 Responses to “The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia”

  1. 1 yeshitla Jun 29th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    The best all. I can`t stop crying when I tune to this song. God bless his soul.
    Michael was such a great man. He was the world.

  2. 2 Dr. Wondwessen Kebede Jun 29th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    R.I.P. Michael Jackson, you are in the hearts of many ethiopians for your generous
    contribution against famine. MJ remains as a great and generous artist of our time.

  3. 3 binyam Jun 29th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    We owe him all for that work and specifically MJ, May God Bless your soul.


  4. 4 teddy Jun 29th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    by the way, most of the money was wasted for administrative costs by corrupt NGOS.

    so the whole LIVE AID project was a failure, relatively.

    by the way, American government was using the famine and “live aid” to embarrass ethiopia using media because ethiopia was pro-SOVIET.

    All of this was political, not humanitarian.

  5. 5 Johhny Be Good Jun 29th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    When I heard that Michel Jackson had passed, I was totally shocked because I did not expect it. But now that he is gone and when I reflect on the man’s life, whose music I absolutely love, I think of a conflicted personality. A man who was constantly in trouble with the law and often eccentric behavior in public. But say what you may about his personal life, Michael Jackson was the most amazing musician ever lived. He is irreplaceable.

    We love you Michael and may you make the heavens dance! Rest in peace.

    Johhny Be Good

  6. 6 lili Jun 30th, 2009 at 2:31 am

    I love michael but this song was crap and totally put out there to discredit Ethiopia Bob Geldof and all these singers tried to make themselves like angels. Ethiopia was going through a war at the time and all their efforts were on uniting Ethiopia so I don’t believe that we should be grateful one minute it paved the way for bagger next government with no shame to come in and rely on food aid money.

  7. 7 Pilatos Jun 30th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Over one million Ethiopians perished in the 1980′s due to famine and shocked the rest of the world. This is not some kind of western conspiracy. Unless we are in denial, the ugly and sad truth of the 1984 famine is a fact that can not be disputed. Our collective energy should focus on preventing another 1985 famine and protect our children from current and future starvation. Famine should be a crime.

    Besides the usual conspiracy theory, the singers are human beings moved to help the suffering of other human beings. For this, they have my respect. Thank you.

    Michael is Jackson is not a politician, he is the greatest entertainer ever lived. He will be dearly missed.


  8. 8 Haile Jun 30th, 2009 at 10:55 am

    A pop music icon has gone at this early stage. We Ethiopians should pay tribute to his memory and to what he has done for our suffering people in one of the darkest moments of our history. I hope the Ethiopian Sport Association in North America will pick the idea and organize a due tribute paying event this year.

  9. 9 Eph-marvelous Jun 30th, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    DEAR Micheal jackson , may you rest in peace and may god have mercy up on you. u were a great , talented , extraordinary, generous and nice guy in the world. it is big loss. u were powerful man. we love you so so much and we thank you so much. you will be in our heart. God is always with you and angels will protect you. nobody can be like you. you are a generous and genius singer on the planet and everybody knows that though.


  10. 10 Yonas (Just want_to_share) Jun 30th, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Michael Jackson is one of the most unforgettable artist this world has ever witnessed. I had no idea until now that he actually wrote “We are the World” and deeply involved in the making of this amazing single on behalf of the Ethiopia and other Africans countries. I love him for it even more!!! Thank you for highlighting this video in light of Micheal’s passing! Thank you a million. As a musician myself I was moved to see all those talented artist in one room being led by the ever genius producer Quincy Jones.

    I just want to share this with all of you:
    Michael Jackson and the unrealized visit to Ethiopia – By Teodros Kiros ( Ph.D):
    “The world is mourning your death, but your soul is now dancing in heaven.
    Michael, the unrealized dream to visit the historic Ethiopia is considered done.
    Dance Michael! Sing it Michael!
    I see you dancing for God in heaven, where your soul is resting, and your body is now freed from the contingencies of suffering.
    We are the world, you said; the Ethiopian world is ours you added. You sung to comfort the patients of famine, the language of Ethiopian poverty. You motivated your fellow singers to sing for the Ethiopian world, and Ethiopians will continue to herald your name, and sing for you in their hearts.
    Socrates is right. The soul is immortal; it lives on, and so is your soul Michael.”
    Read the rest at:

  11. 11 helen Jul 3rd, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I only have tears watching this video and to see someone being so committed! He skipped the music award but the hope implanted in the whole world through this song is an award that will live for ever! He was really an Angel on earth. Earth was blessed through that wonderful heart and the angelic voice he had. But the earth did not treat him right. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, leaving us heartbroken! I know right now, he is happy and singing away with the angels in heaven. HE HAD SUFFERED ENOUGH ON EARTH…SO HE WAS CALLED UPON TO REST! Peace always!

  12. 12 Anthony ssebaana kizito from mukono uganda Jul 4th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I am grateful that Michael Jackson left a lot to be talked about including helping the needy in Ethiopia. It’s shameful that even at the time when millions were dying of hunger, African leaders were pilling dollars into their foreign bank accounts.

    We will miss you Michael, but hope to be with you to praise God in heaven. we will keep the fire burning.
    i will curse those journalists who always blamed michael for even what they had done themselves. don’t let none of those who wrote wrong information about him attend his funeral. May his Soul Rest in Eternal Peace Amen

  13. 13 Sintayehu Jul 4th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    We are the world indeed. One Love. Micheal Jackson and Bob Marley are the biggest names in human history.

  14. 14 Lemlem Jul 8th, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Michael Jackson is the greatest!!

  15. 15 suzan Jul 10th, 2009 at 6:25 am

    I still believe Michael is alive. Thats what my heart keeps telling me. He has done so much, he made us feel free in our heart and our soul. This human being showed us how to remain the way we are no matter our race or religion. We gathered for his concerts and we gathered for his memorial tribute. We have to continue to be one nation and one world. He thought us much more. Pls stop been racist for the sake of king of pop. I love Michael forever.

  16. 16 Genet Sep 10th, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Michael was a special gift from God, and tried to make the world a better place for everyone else, but he was persecuted, mocked, arrested, and killed. We are indebted to him for his help during the Famine in Ethiopia, and around the world. WE MISS YOU MICHAEL!!!!! YOUR MUSIC, WORK LIVE FOREVER!!!!

  17. 17 Romi Oct 9th, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Ok, after looking at some of y’all comments, I feel embarrassed one of you. The fact was that The “Derg”, was NOT taking care of ETHIOPIANS. And These singers(ESP. Michael) Wanted to give to Ethiopia and y’all are saying this was NOT a humanitarian thing? Are y’all kidding me? Besmeab!

    And for the person who said they were tryin to degrade Ethiopia, well NEWS FLASH, THE Government At that time Was doing A Great job Doing that. We need to be At least Thankful for their help, NOT Bash what they did. I was born in 88, And Some of y’all may be OLDER than me, but DAMN, Stop it with this Ignorance…We got Many of that in Ethiopia. I’m Ethiopian, and Proud of it. But I Also Recognize that THE GOVERNMENT After Haile Silasse was messed Up!

    Show some sincerity Man, After all, we’re all humans and what ever Mike and the other did to help us, Think about this, DID ANY ETHIOPIAN in Power at that time DID ANYTHING TO HELP Its PEOPLE? NO! SO Get over with your Ignorance and Zim Belu (SHUT UP).

    THank you!

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