March 7th Marks the 30th Anniversary of the Release of Pop Music’s Biggest Collaboration ‘We Are the World’
Turn on the nightly news and you'll plainly see that "We Are the World" didn't actually end the famine in Africa, but it did end something else we haven't seen since that late January, the musical collaboration. That's not to say musicians don't collaborate and that there aren't causes musicians jump all over at every opportunity, but something on this scale can't be done again. If it was even attempted it would be a virtual-Skype-ish recording with everybody in their different corners.
Hearing the steps that were taken to ensure nobody's ego outdid another is humorous. A sign at the door read, "Check Your Egos at the Door". Entourages weren't allowed. It was each poor, fragile musician for him/herself. That's unthinkable today. They'd have to rent out Staples Center just to house Puffy's people alone.
Much like peace & love were killed by the 70s, music using its collective power for good was killed by "We Are the World". We've seen individual artists, or even small collectives of artists, that will get together for a cause. The difference today is we've seen it all before. We can't possibly see anything bigger than what we saw in 1985, and that fact makes it virtually impossible to be heard above the fray of status updates and tweets about Kardashians and that kale salad you had for dinner.
Artists get into the vodka business with their extra money & time. Causes consist of something opportune enough to tie in with a product. Those that genuinely care ultimately look like raving lunatics waving their arms and screaming "The sky is falling". Before "We Are the World", musicians came together for peace, love, ending wars and getting rid of nukes. After being force-fed these causes our entire lives, it's just background noise.
We're a nation of narcissists that would rather protest our own right to carry a bazooka than come together for something bigger than us. It's almost as if the world had two choices in 1985. Choice 1 consisted of bettering the world with the help of alleged future-child-molester Michael Jackson & DNA source to the anti-Christ, Nicole Richie, Lionel. Choice 2 was going the Wall Street (the movie) me-me-me route. I'll let you guess the path we chose.
Musicians aren't changing the world. They're remodeling their mansions and purchasing private jets. Believe it or not, the antithesis of cool rock stars, the nerds, are the ones saving the world. After all, if there's going to be an earth for the meek to inherit it's going to have to be saved from itself first.
We've made a lot of strides in the 30 years since "We Are the World". We've cured diseases. We've brought an end to the Cold War. We've bettered the world for every continent except that for which this whole spectacle was created. Africa is still a mess. That's not being derogatory. That's being real. 46 musicians couldn't make a cocaine-fueled evening turn into a lasting legacy.
This landmark event certainly gets/got an A for effort, but its impact was pretty much the opposite of its intended purpose. We've seen the feeble attempts from time to time to recreate that magic. It's never gotten there. Everybody's got their own causes. It's hard to convince the animal-savers to join forces on another cause because that's their passion.
The closest we've seen to this event was after 9/11 when there was the huge television event to raise money. It wasn't the same. First, it was stars from TV, movies and music. Second, and this goes back to my earlier narcissist comment, it was something for US. It wasn't about NYC or DC or PA. It was about US getting attacked.
It happened after Hurricane Katrina. Catastrophe. This televised event was remembered more for Kanye's jackassery than for the cause. It didn't have the impact of the 9/11 benefit because it was about THEM. One city. One state. One region. "I live in Kansas. What do I care about the Gulf Coast?".
The days of worrying about the world are mostly a thing of the past. We're worried about our own health, wealth and sexual dysfunction far too much to be concerned about that 20-second clip shown on the evening news right after the horrifying story about how ISIS is coming for us and right before the clip about something involving a Kardashian sex change.
The biggest reason we'll probably never see musicians coming together on this scale again is that the single wouldn't sell. If it WAS actually good enough to release, someone would put it on YouTube, someone else would put it on a file-sharing site and the rest would be history.