It was about 30 years ago that “We Are the World” took the country by storm to raise awareness of—and funds to help combat—African famine. It was among many all-star charity singles at the time. Here are a couple others that time forgot.
USA for Africa was the name of the “band” that recorded “We Are the World,” a one-time-only collection of ‘80s music superstars including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Huey Lewis, and Cyndi Lauper.
While the single sold millions, a full album was also released. It was filled out with donated songs from USA for Africa participants including the Pointer Sisters, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, as well as Prince, who didn’t participate in “We Are the World.” The album also included “Tears Are Not Enough” by Northern Lights. Who are Northern Lights? “Canadians for Africa.” The song was written by Canadian pop star Bryan Adams, his Canadian cowriter Jim Vallance, and super-producer David Foster (who is also Canadian). As “We Are the World” dominated American music for a while, “Tears Are Not Enough” dominated Canadian music. It hit #1 in April 1985 and was the bestselling song in Canada for that year. It ultimately raised $3.2 million for famine relief, and another $300,000 for Canadian food banks. Among the Canadian superstars that sang on “Tears”: Neil Young, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Corey Hart, Mike Reno of Loverboy, and Geddy Lee of Rush. (Bonus: USA for Africa almost inexplicably included comedian Dan Aykroyd. Representing comedy in Northern Lights: John Candy.)
Hear ‘n Aid had a self-deprecating name, but a noble pursuit: raise money for famine relief…but also show that heavy metal acts weren’t evil. Scary heavy metal and hard rocks of the ‘80s—largely shut out of “We Are the World”—convened in 1985 to record “Stars.” Vocals were handled by Ronnie James Dio of Dio, Don Dokken of Dokken, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, and Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. And because it’s metal, even a metal song with a message, guitar solos were included too, from Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, Eddie Ojeda of Twister Sister, and speed-metal master Yngwie Malmsteen.