“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Harry Belafonte had an idea. He wanted to organize relief aid to Africa. Harry, a successful Jamaican-American singer and songwriter was well-known for his recording of “The Banana Boat Song”, with its signature “Day-O” lyric. He envisioned writing a new song that would inspire the world. He made a few calls. Soon, other singers and songwriters were onboard, including Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder. American record producer, Quincy Jones joined in and reached out to Michael Jackson who had just concluded a tour with his brothers after releasing his Thriller album. Jackson was enthusiastic about the opportunity and told them he not only wanted to sing it, but wanted to help write it as well. Lionel joined Michael at the Jackson family home in Encino, California and went to work writing the song. They wanted something that would be easy to sing and remember, yet still an anthem. Richie had a melody which Jackson took. He added music and words to the song on the same day. A week after starting, Jackson and Richie had the song.
“We Are the World” was recorded a week later. An incredible cast of 45 artists joined Jackson and team, including Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Huey Lewis, Bette Midler, The Pointer Sisters and Jackson’s siblings. Upon entering the recording studio, the musicians were greeted by a sign pinned to the door that read, “Please check your egos at the door.” They were also greeted by Stevie Wonder, who proclaimed that if the recording was not complete in one take, he and Ray Charles, two blind men, would drive them home.
Harry’s big idea had become reality. Once released, the song went on to raise $63M for the relief effort and topped music charts throughout the world. It became the fastest selling U.S. pop single in history, becoming the first to be certified multi-platinum.
Think Big! It’s easy to think small. But thinking big requires stretching outside our comfort area and more importantly, reaching out to others. To scale to the impact that “We Are the World” had, Harry knew he needed help. His vision succeeded because he engaged and inspired others to follow and join his effort.
What are your big ideas? Who are you going to enlist to help accomplish your mission? Be bold. Have faith. Think big. In the words of the chorus that might be going through your head by now, “It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me.”
Let’s go make a better day!
Picture on Post: “We Are the World” Album Cover Art
“We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
Oh, there’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me”