January 28, 1985: Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and more stars gather to record "We Are the World"
"We Are the World" was the American response to "Do They Know It's Christmas?," the British charity single from the previous year that raised millions for Ethiopian famine relief. The new song was the brainchild of Harry Belafonte, the Calypso-pop musician and international activist, and written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, with production from Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian.
The song was a true intersection of American music royalty – too many of them, in fact, for every musician to receive a solo line. Performers included Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper and more, as well as one comedian, Dan Aykroyd. It was recorded in one all-night session in Los Angeles.
"We Are the World" was the fastest-selling single on the American charts and was a worldwide sensation. It went quadruple platinum, won three Grammys, and was remade in 2010 for Haiti earthquake relief.
January 28, 2001: Ray Charles sings his version of "America the Beautiful" at Super Bowl XXXV
On the field, the Baltimore Ravens trounced the New York Giants. At halftime, a pop mélange of Aerosmith, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Nelly and Mary J. Blige bopped through "Walk This Way." But for music fans, the true thrill of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida, was before the game, when soul legend Ray Charles delivered a stunning performance of "America the Beautiful."
Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" was performed live in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the birth of America. It was a truly beautiful performance, and a moment of reverence to beat any in the Super Bowl's history. Sadly, it was also one of Charles' final public performances; this, plus a set upon inauguration into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, were part of a handful of final public appearances before Charles passed away in 2004.
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