Lionel Richie is proposing a remake of 1985’s global hit “We Are the World.” The melody—that received vocal participation from Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick and more in support of relief efforts to fight Ethiopia’s famine crisis at the time as well as other countries stricken by food shortages—was a feat Richie hopes to assemble again in the face of the COVID-19 virus.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, the “All Night Long” singer amplified the sentiment that the world needs to operate on one accord to help battle this pandemic. “What happened in China, in Europe, it came here,” Richie said. “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.” The famed musician continued to state that while talks about the song’s anniversary and promoting that was a thought, similar to how it was revamped in 2010 to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, Richie noted “we said we didn’t want to do too much [about the song] because this is not the time to sell an anniversary.”
The 70-year-old also attempted to re-write the melody, but “those same words” (“There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives”) always came to mind when he tried to land on a new message. “We Are The World” was released on March 8, 1985 as part of a compilation album of the same name, with the proceeds benefiting a foundation founded by activist Harry Belafonte, United Support of Artists for Africa (USA For Africa). The meldoy was produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, and co-written between Richie and Michael Jackson. The multi-platinum song topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and won four Grammy Awards in 1986 (Song of the Year, Best Music Video, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.)
This isn’t the first time a supergroup of artists gathered to fight national disasters or diseases through music. In 2001, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” song was used as a template for groups like Destiny’s Child, *NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, and solo artists from Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado to Nas, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, and Nelly plus more to help fight the spread of AIDS. Organizations like Artists Against AIDS Worldwide and the Global AIDS Alliance were able to allocate funds to fight the disease in countries in Africa and other parts of the world where medicine and healthcare units are under-funded and ill-equipped.