On this date 29 years ago, the all-star ensemble hit No. 1 - and helped launch a legacy of philanthropy
On Dec. 20, 1984, Harry Belafonte placed a call to nonprofit consultant/music manager Ken Kragen in hopes of staging a concert to raise funds to fight hunger in Africa - specifically Ethiopia, where famine killed nearly 1 million in 1983-84. Kragen, who managed Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers at the time, thought that a supergroup charity single would make more of an impact.
Kragen initially planned to recruit a dozen artists for the song, but industry response was so enthusiastic (seemingly inspired by the success of the then-current "Do They Know It's Christmas?," a similar charity single by British and Irish stars that would soon hit No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100) that 50 artists ended up in the group, dubbed USA for Africa (with the "USA" officially short for United Support of Artists). Richie and Michael Jackson wrote the song, producer Quincy Jones assembled the artists at Hollywood's A&M Studios in early 1985, and "We Are the World" was born.