Billboard #1s for the Week Ending March 23, 1985

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 REO Speedwagon Can’t Fight This Feeling 3
R & B Nightshift Commodores 2
Country Seven Spanish Angels Ray Charles with Willie Nelson 1
Adult Contemporary Too Late For Goodbyes Julian Lennon 2
Rock All She Wants to Do Is Dance Don Henley 1
Album Centerfield John Fogerty 1

USAforAfricaThis week sees one of the biggest-selling singles of all time blast onto the Hot 100. Inspired by the success of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid project, entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte decided to create a non-profit to combat African famine. Deciding to mount an American equivalent of Band Aid, he contacted manager and promoter Ken Kragen, who agreed to help. Kragen enlisted two of his clients, Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers. They quickly recruited Quincy Jones, who took a break from working on the Color Purple to co-produce and orchestrate the project. They added Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to their initial brain trust and work began in earnest.

Jackson and Richie wrote the words and music for a song that would be sung by a vast array of vocalists with an all-star chorus supporting them. The rest of the team began rounding up other performers to participate in the project, insisting on secrecy and a spirit of collaboration. In late January, with a barely finished song in hand, the assembled talent began a three-day recording project that featured 21 lead vocalists, nearly 30 supporting singers, and a dozen musicians and support staff — all some of the biggest stars in American pop and rock music — recording as USA for Africa. (A complete rundown of the talent is available on Wikipedia.)

When it was released, We Are the World flew off the racks. The combination of an all-star lineup and a clearly charitable project motivated buyers by the millions. One of the fastest-selling singles of all time, it blasted onto the Hot 100 this week at #21. It leapt to #5 in its second week, the fastest rise to the Top 5 since Beatlemania. Stalled out for one week at #2 behind Phil Collins’ smash One More Night, it ascended to a four week run at #1 in only its fourth week on the charts.

We Are the World remains one of dozen the biggest selling singles in the world more than 30 years after its release. The phenomenon raised millions for famine aid and tied in with Geldof’s plan for a huge concert to raise even more money.

INTERESTING NOTE: The singers who joined together as USA for Africa had in aggregate sung lead on a stunning 66 #1 Hot 100 hits before participating in this project. Many went on to log even more #1s and many had notched chart-toppers on the Country, R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. That’s a pretty impressive musical resume.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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