Lionel Richie attends Rolla’s x Sofia Richie Launch Event on February 20, 2020, in West Hollywood, California.
Lionel Richie attends Rolla’s x Sofia Richie Launch Event on February 20, 2020, in West Hollywood, California.
Photo: Rachel Murray (Getty Images for Rolla’s)

It’s been 35 years since the release of the iconic Grammy-winning song “We Are the World,” by the supergroup USA For Africa, which featured several iconic artists and signified an unprecedented moment in pop culture.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Lionel Richie, who co-wrote the song with Michael Jackson, is reflecting on the song’s intention. According to People, Richie has considered writing a new song with a similar sentiment of “We Are the World.”

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“What happened in China, in Europe, it came here. So if we don’t save our brothers there, it’s going to come home. It’s all of us. All of us are in this together,” he noted.

We Are the World (Official Video) / U.S.A. For Africa VEVO (YouTube)

“Two weeks ago, we said we didn’t want to do too much [about the song] because this is not the time to sell an anniversary. But the message is so clear,” Richie said.

The 1985 version was created to serve as a fundraising effort toward famine relief in Africa. In 2010, a remake was released, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

In the 1985 original, the chorus goes, “There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives.” Richie noted the usage of “we” was an intentional discussion in his writing sessions with Jackson.

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“That line came about as Michael and I were sitting there talking,” the 70-year-old musician and American Idol judge told People. “We said, you can either say, ‘I’m saving my life’ or ‘We’re saving our lives.’ “We Are the World” is a statement we wanted to make. What do we do to save our own?”

In regard to writing a newer version for today’s climate, Richie said, “But every time I try and write another message, I write those same words.”

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Richie isn’t entirely alone in this sentiment, which has, of course, been adjusted to adhere to our new social distancing culture. We can’t gather a bunch of celebrities in a room, but each celebrity can sing the song from their respective homes, where they’re self-isolating. Gal Gadot recently posted a compilation of celebrities singing along to John Lennon’s “Imagine” to lift spirits.

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It didn’t have quite the intended effect, though. Sure, it provided a salve for some folks, but it also came during a time where the panic, devastation, anger and frustration was still pretty raw. And of course, since we have social media, people are able to immediately express such feelings on a large platform.

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In addition to the glaringly obvious observation that no one is in the same key, I’d rather imagine all the coins being distributed into my Cash App, but I digress!

Then, Tyler Perry decided to do his own version. Note, he did directly acknowledge that his version wouldn’t be in the same key, which is likely less jarring since each singer was singing the chorus over and over instead of singing just one line from the song.

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Maybe we’re getting hungrier for socialism (or Democratic Socialism or some fucking alternative to capitalism) and are more inclined to eat the rich. Maybe it’s fatigue with narcissism disguised as sincere concern. Maybe it’s because of the growing disillusion of celebrities as saviors or idols. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Whatever it is, people are becoming more critical of how a celebrity chooses to use their platform, especially in times of distress.

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Also, this happened, for some reason.

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Anyway, maybe the compilation of comedians warmly reciting the lyrics to “Slob On My Knob” by Three Six Mafia was what we truly needed all along.

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Alas, I’d be interested and open to see Mr. Richie’s take on this...

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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