Whatever happened to the singers from ‘We Are the World’?

We are the World singleYesterday, we were listening to a new CD that my wife had bought for the kids. The CD featured songs about peace, and the opening track was “We Are the World,” as sung by kids.

My wife was amused – nay, disturbed at my “Rainman”-like ability to predict not only the words, but who sang them in the original version. And as I started recalling all of them, I was amazed at how many have fallen off the planet, and how many of them were just plain lucky to have been included.

Who is still relevant today? Who was the least of the best?

  • Lionel Richie – included because he co-wrote the song with Michael Jackson. He was at the top of his career at the time; sadly, he only had four more Top 10 hits, and he’s better known nowadays as Nicole Richie’s dad.
  • Stevie Wonder – a true superstar, but he was reaching the sunset of his career. Only three more Top 10 singles after this. (Hmmm – am I sensing a “We Are the World” curse?)
  • Paul Simon – Included as sort of a “Lifetime Achievement Award”; his last Top 10 hit was in 1980. He re-emerged a year later with Graceland, a monster album, but not much since.
  • Kenny Rogers – He continued making waves in the country charts for the next few years, but as a pop star, he was washed up. Can now be found singing at your local Concert in the Park series.
  • James Ingram – Who? (Interestingly, only 1 Top 10 hit before, two afterward. He’s bucking the trend!)
  • Tina Turner – Classy. Superstar. She’s still relevant today, even though the hits aren’t coming anymore.
  • Billy Joel – Another legend that continued making hit songs into the 90s.
  • Michael Jackson – Well, what can you say about him that hasn’t been said already? How about taking up three and a half verses while giving Springsteen only one?
  • Diana Ross – Not really relevant, given her spotty 80s success. She hasn’t aged gracefully, but a legend nonetheless.
  • Dionne Warwick – Another Lifetime Achievement Awardee. She would hit big that same year with “That’s What Friends Are For,” then nothin’. Can be seen with Kenny Rogers at your local Concert in the Park Series.
  • Willie Nelson – Country legend, yes. Pop star? Uh-uh. And his harmonies on this are sooo off-key.
  • Al Jarreau – See Ingram, Warwick.
  • Bruce Springsteen – Thank you Bruce, for continuing to play at your A-game all these years.
  • Kenny Loggins – His 15 minutes were ticking. After 1986′ Top Gun, it was all over, at least on the pop charts. (Remember Pooh Corner?)
  • Steve Perry – Another sad story. AOR was on its way out, and although Journey continued to make records throughout the 80s, by the end of the 90s Perry would find himself replaced by his bandmates.
  • Daryl Hall – Where’s Oates? If Hall & Oates were a stock at this time, I would have sold immediately.
  • Huey Lewis – Another monster sports-titled album would follow, then nothing. He will forever be trapped in the 80s.
  • Cyndi Lauper – Another 80s icon, but she’s at least tried throughout the 90s. You might find her at the Concert in the Park Series.
  • Kim Carnes – Huh? I scratched my head at the time the song was released, and it seems even more bizarre today. Two Top 10 hits. That’s it. Less than Melissa Manchester, DeBarge or John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band.
  • Bob Dylan – Yeah, he’s a legend, but he hadn’t done anything during the 80s, and – well, he can’t sing.
  • Ray Charles – Lifetime Achievement Awardee, but well-deserved. He was a good choice to finish the song.

Who was conspicuously missing? Prince, Madonna, Tom Petty, and John Cougar Mellencamp (who did Farm Aid) are all still relevant today. Pat Benatar? Belinda Carlisle? Ric Ocasek? (Okay, he can’t sing.)

Note: Performers deemed not important enough for a solo but were relegated to the chorus were: Dan Aykroyd (um, didn’t know he sang), Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham (I’d rather have Stevie Nicks), Sheila E., Jackie, LaToya, Marlon, Randy and Tito Jackson (where are Janet and Jermaine? Rebbie?); Waylon Jennings, John Oates (there he is!), the Pointer Sisters and Smokey Robinson.

Note 2: This is the second time I’ve mentioned “We Are The World” on this blog. Hopefully, I won’t do it again.

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Peter Lee


  1. Check the video again and see if John Oates is popping out somewhere in the background. Look for the bushy mustache and that dorky attempt to be cool as he strums his guitar and reminds us all again why white people can’t dance. I see him in my nightmares sometimes, lurking in the background, then jumping out at me….

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