Tina Turner becomes 10th singer from single ‘We Are the World’ to die – Billboard
Tina Turner has accomplished so much in her 50-year career that her appearance on the All-Star charity single “We Are the World” didn’t get much attention after her death on Wednesday at the age of 83. But she was a standout singer on this stellar single, recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood on January 28, 1985, right after that year’s American Music Awards.
Turner was the first female voice to be heard on the recording by a collective of 44 singers (21 lead singers and 23 other artists in the chorus) called USA for Africa (short for United Support of Artists for Africa). The hit topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in April and May 1985. It won the Grammy for Record of the Year in February 1986, a year after Turner won that top category for their comeback hit What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
With Turner’s death, just a month after the death of musician and activist Harry Belafonte – who was the driving force behind “We Are the World” – ten of the hit’s singers have died. The first 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 featured on the recording, died in 2009, followed by Al Jarreau in 2017, James Ingram in 2019 and Kenny Rogers in 2020. Rogers was in his heyday in the 1980s years managed by Ken collar, whom Belafonte hired to bring the vision to life. Collar 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 neither artist on the recording received Grammys. The Recording Academy chose the award for Record of the Year, and another award for the recording – Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals – went only to the single’s producer, Quincy Jones. Jones won a third Grammy that night for video production of “We Are the World – The Video Event,” which won Best Music Video, Short Form. (Video director Tom Trbovich also won in this category).
Jones and Richie are still alive, as are most of the other participants. Other singers on the record included: 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 five former or current members of his band The News; Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler, who co-hosted the first MTV Video Music Awards in September 1984; Bob Geldof, the driving force behind the 1984 UK charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which inspired this American response; and five of Jackson’s siblings – but not Janet, who broke through with Control the following year.