The song was originally recorded in 1985 by the supergroup USA for Africa. It was written by Richie and the late-great Michael Jackson produced by Quincy Jones for the album “We Are the World,” which sold 20 million copies worldwide.
Richie, 70, opened up to PEOPLE about how he is thinking of a line in the chorus, “There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives,” during this challenging time.
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“That line,” Richie said “came about as Michael and I were sitting there talking. 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?”
Richie also acknowledges the country’s divisive climate
“I must admit, every once in a while, God has to do something to get us back on track,” he said of the virus, and the recent death of his longtime friend, singer Kenny Rogers.
“We were back to there are ‘those people’ and ‘those people.’ If you find yourself saying ‘those people’ then you are not thinking properly,” he said.
“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,” Richie added.
“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,” he said, noting that he’s been thinking about writing a different song. “But every time I try and write another message, I write those same words.”
An updated version of “We Are the World” was released 10 years ago to assist earthquake victims in Haiti. This month mark’s 35 years since the song’s original release and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for an updated version, as proceeds could be used to aid those most at-risk during the COVID-19 outbreak.