Impersonating Michael Jackson or being like him is a common topic in the media in 2017 due to his recent biopics. However, one facet of his life that could use some representation concerns his song “We Are The World” that MJ co-wrote with Lionel Richie to raise over $50 million to save millions starving in a famine in Africa in the 1980s.
Sadly, 20 million people are reported to be starving in Africa in 2017, and many top news sources point out that this is the “worst famine in Africa since World War II.” This means the current famine is worse than the one that alarmed Michael Jackson and spurned the “We Are The World” fundraiser.
Unfortunately, when many of today’s celebrities are compared to Michael Jackson, his generosity is not used as a measuring tool. For example, Kanye West compared himself to Michael Jackson, but noted that he has now outshone MJ in being a successful entertainer, according to Metro.
Katy Perry recently compared Beyonce to Michael Jackson, according to Billboard, and it was namely for Beyonce’s status as an entertainer.
Although Michael Jackson’s celebrity status might be difficult for anyone to top in the future, another major facet of his life outside of entertaining was charity. In fact, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, Michael Jackson’s estate continues to give 20 percent of his estimated $1 billion dollar net worth to charity — and he has been dead for over seven years.
In other words, the biggest shoes to fill in remembering Michael Jackson is his generosity, and the world could use a person like Michael Jackson now more than ever.
According to a June 1 report from Vox, over 20 million throughout Africa are currently starving.
According to the United Nations in February, 42 percent of South Sudan is starving and that “aid agencies fear the situation could be much worse now.”
For many Michael Jackson fans, this description may sound familiar. For example, in 2013, the Borgen Project blog remembered the famine in Ethiopia in 1983 to 1985 that triggered Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to write “We Are The World” as follows.
“Africa was in shambles. Famine swept across the continent. A bloody guerilla war in Ethiopia was raging. Change was needed, and a pop phenomenon by the name of Michael Jackson planned to make it happen.”
When the media look back at the impact of “We Are The World” since 1985 and the estimated 1 million Africans that lost their lives in that famine, they often focus on how much money Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie were actually able to help raise. According to the History Channel website, “We Are The World” originally raised $53 million.
The organization behind “We Are The World” is still active, and it is called USA for Africa. Lionel Richie is also still behind the organization, and the website announces that over $100 million has been raised for USA for Africa in the past 32 years.
USA for Africa is still raising money on their merchandise page, and they also organized a re-recording of “We Are The World” in 2010. Sadly, according to NPR, the re-recording of “We Are The World” did not work out as expected for the Haiti earthquake effort.
Regardless, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie had their heart in the right place from the very beginning of the idea of writing “We Are The World.”
For example, when “We Are The World” was celebrated for its 30-year anniversary in 2015, USA Today pointed out that Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson were so absorbed in writing “We Are The World” that Richie became extremely sleep-deprived. In fact, Lionel Richie still claims that the sleep deprivation left him with no memory of hosting the 1985 American Music Awards ceremony.
Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson were inspired by the Live Aid charity song in the UK called “Do They Know It’s Christmas” that was released in December 1984. About a month later, on January 28, 1985, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie finished “We Are The World” just a couple of hours before the song was recorded by 40 celebrity singers.
According to Rolling Stone, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and Quincy Jones were able to record the “We Are The World” song in one night.
Ebay also lists signed or international versions of “We Are The World” with one signed by Michael Jackson being offered for sale on June 3 for $1,190. Another with over 12 signatures from celebrities involved in the recording of “We Are The World” is being auctioned for $3,715.
Currently, vinyl records are having the first surge in popularity of the past 30 years ago, according to a 2016 report from Fortune, but USA for Africa only sells the digital versions of the “We Are The World” songs.
As far as being as generous as Michael Jackson goes, the celebrity that has given the most to charity in the recent past is Sir Elton John. In 2016, Elton John was noted by Independent for contributing £26.8 million ($34.6 million) in a single year.
In 2015, Business Insider listed German tech billionaire Dietmar Hopp as the world’s most generous donor. Out of his $6.3 billion accumulated fortune, Dietmar Hopp has donated $1 billion.
According to a 2017 report by The Guardian triggered by the United Nations data on starvation in Africa, there is a long list of charities that are helping to battle the current famine such as OCHA, World Vision, Save the Children, and UNICEF.
[Featured Image by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images]