Tina Turner achieved so significantly in her 50-year profession that her presence on the all-star charity single “We Are the World” didn’t get a lot of consideration following her death on Wednesday at age 83. But she was a featured vocalist on that higher-profile single, which was recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood on Jan. 28, 1985 – appropriate right after that year’s American Music Awards.
Turner was the initially female voice listeners heard on the recording by a collective of 44 singers (21 featured vocalists and 23 more artists in the chorus) dubbed USA for Africa (quick for United Assistance of Artists for Africa). The smash logged 4 weeks atop the Billboard Hot one hundred in April and Could 1985. It won the Grammy for record of the year in February 1986, a single year right after Turner won in that marquee category for her comeback smash “What’s Enjoy Got to Do With It.”
With Turner’s death, just a single month right after the death of musician and activist Harry Belafonte — who was the key driving force behind “We Are the World” — ten of the singers on the smash have passed on. The initially to die was Waylon Jennings in 2002, followed by Ray Charles in 2004 and June Pointer of The Pointer Sisters in 2006.
Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the song with Lionel Richie and was featured on the recording, died in 2009, followed by Al Jarreau in 2017, James Ingram in 2019 and Kenny Rogers in 2020. Rogers was managed in his 1980s heyday by Ken Kragen, who Belafonte enlisted to bring the vision to life. Kragen died in 2021.
Anita Pointer of The Pointer Sisters died in December 2022, followed by Belafonte on April 25, and now Turner.
Jackson and Richie won Grammys for song of the year for co-writing the song, but none of the artists on the recording have been awarded Grammys. The Recording Academy elected to give the record of the year prize, and a further the recording won – ideal pop efficiency by a duo or group with vocal – only to the single’s producer, Quincy Jones. Jones won a third Grammy on the evening as video producer of “We Are the Planet – The Video Occasion,” which won ideal music video, quick type. (The video director, Tom Trbovich, also won in that category).
Jones and Richie are nevertheless living, as are most of the other participants. The other singers on the record incorporated: Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, Lindsey Buckingham, Sheila E., Jeffrey Osborne, Smokey Robinson, Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters and Daryl Hall and John Oates.
Also: Huey Lewis and 5 previous or present members of his band, The News Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler, who had co-hosted the initially MTV Video Music Awards in September 1984 Bob Geldof, the driving force behind the 1984 U.K. charity single “Do They Know It is Christmas?,” which inspired this American response and 5 of Jackson’s siblings – but not Janet, who broke by way of with Manage the following year.