Jeff Pearlman

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Ranking all the “We Are The World” participants

We-Are-The-World-michael-jackson-7644288-1592-1072

Tonight, for no reason whatsoever, I found myself listening to “We Are The World,” the 1985 song featuring a million superstar singers raising money for USA for Africa.

The lineup is a who’s who of the era’s pop, rock and R&B singers, and I decided, right now, to rank the participants on overall career hugeness/greatness. So here I go …

• 1. Michael Jackson: There are no Beatles in the room, therefore this is a no-brainer.

• 2. Bob Dylan: I mean, he’s not everyone’s taste, and he sometimes sounds like a dying bird. But legend is legend.

• 3. Ray Charles: A v-e-r-y close third.

• 4. Stevie Wonder: One of the definitive voices of multiple eras.

• 5. Bruce Springsteen: At the time he would have ranked, oh, 20th. But 32 years later …

• 6. Paul Simon: It starts getting much more debatable here, but Simon—solo, or with Art—is an all-time, all-time legend.

• 7. Willie Nelson: If you never pay attention to country, this might seem way too high. It’s not.

• 8. Smokey Robinson: It’s weird—he’s a superduper star, yet he’s relegated to the chorus. No solo.

• 9. Tina Turner: She was a powerhouse with Ike, but the solo work took her to a new level.

• 10. Billy Joel: As my wife likes to point out, every month he sells out Madison Square Garden. Every month.

• 11. Harry Belafonte: If we’re talking music+social issues, he’s Top 3. But as pure musical guy, he’s 11th.

• 12. Hall & Oates: Yes, they’re my favorites. And Kenny Rogers fans might debate it. But the career resume speaks for itself.

• 13. Kenny Rogers: Also makes amazing chicken.

• 14. Bette Midler: Astonishing career on stage, film, record.

• 15. Diana Ross: She’s not my favorite, but the Supremes reigned, and her daughter stars on Blackish. So, hey.

• 16. Lionel Richie: He brought the world “Brick House,” but I won’t hold that against him.

• 17. Lindsey Buckingham: He barely appears here, but Fleetwood Mac ain’t no joke.

• 18. Kenny Loggins: I saw him in concert two nights ago. It was sorta dull. But he posts a ton of hits.

• 19. Waylon Jennings: A country icon with a fascinating life. That said—who invited him, but no Whitney Houston or Prince?

• 20. Steve Perry: Am I paying too little respect for the cheese that is Journey? Eh … no.

• 21. Cyndi Lauper: “She Bops” is about masturbation. I love that.

• 22. Dionne Warwick: A ton of flat, uninspired elevator tunes, punctured by an airport drug arrest.

• 23. Huey Lewis: Another one of those guys where you’re like, “Meh”—then you see his 25 hits. OK, not 25. But a sound eight.

• 24: The Pointer Sisters: They’re so excited to be on this list.

• 25. Jeffrey Osborne: At the time that whole wings of love thing was big. Otherwise, he’s playing  Atlantic City as an opening act.

• 26. Sheila E: I mean, she’s been an elite drummer forever, and even led the band for the week Magic Johnson had his own talk show.

• 27. James Ingram: He entered the room as a Quincy Jones protege. Wound up having enough songs to bring forth a marginal Greatest Hits album. But that’s about all.

• 28. Al Jarreau: I just hate his genre of music. But a good run.

• 29. Kim Carnes: She was a Quaz. And, eh, yeah.

• 30. All the Jackson siblings: Marlon, Tito, Steve, Ed, Ray, Joe, Luis, Marty …

• 31. Bob Geldof: Had he not organized Live Aid, nobody knows his name,

• 32. Dad Aykroyd: How was in even invited?

  • Gregory Hardy

    Prince was invited, but declined to show up. Here is the song “4 The Tears in Your Eyes” that he contributed to the LP (it leads off Side 2).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QACucXWrvBQ

  • Gregory Hardy

    Next time you’re bored, you can rank the rest of the songs and/or bands who contributed songs to the rest of the LP:

    Side one
    1. We are the World – “We Are the World” (Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie) – 7:07
    2. Steve Perry – “If Only for the Moment, Girl” (Randy Goodrum, Steve Perry) – 3:44
    3. The Pointer Sisters – “Just a Little Closer” (Robbie Nevil, Mark Mueller) – 3:53
    4. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – “Trapped” (Live Version) (Jimmy Cliff) – 5:11
    5. Northern Lights – “Tears Are Not Enough” (David Foster, Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance) – 4:21

    Side two
    6. Prince & The Revolution – “4 the Tears in Your Eyes” (Prince) – 2:45
    7. Chicago – “Good for Nothing” (Richard Marx, Robert Lamm, David Foster) – 3:35
    8. Tina Turner – “Total Control” (Martha Davis, Jeff Jourard) – 3:38
    9. Kenny Rogers – “A Little More Love” (Thom Schuyler, Fred Knobloch) – 2:54
    10. Huey Lewis and the News – “Trouble in Paradise” (Live Version) (Johnny Colla, Bill Gibson, Chris Hayes, Sean Hopper, Huey Lewis, Mario Cipollina) – 4:34

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life