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Ruta Mave: Looking on the bright side

Monday 29 January 2024 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Ruta Mave: Looking on the bright side
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

After four years of writing a weekly opinion column there comes a time that you wonder what can be written that is different. For inspiration I looked at what I had written this time last year and not surprisingly, I found the same problems by the same people in the news, corruption and lack of health have not changed.

Some say, all I want to do is complain which is not the case. Yes, I want to throw light on bad behaviour, but really, I would prefer to support and encourage more uplifting stories of good human behaviour - if only it existed.

I searched in history if January 28 held anything to be proud of or had lasted the test of time, to still be relevant known and celebrated. 

In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew aboard off the coast of cape Canaveral Florida.

I remember watching this and feeling how shocking it was to witness their deaths live on television.

Now decades later, the news is constantly full of horrendous deaths and hopelessness of human tragedy, from natural disasters to wars, we have become numb to it all.

NASA said, instead of honouring those lost in the Challenger by remembering them, they do so by continuing the mission.

Unfortunately, instead of learning and changing our behaviours seen on social media, we make heroes of them by giving them viral screen time worldwide. Not uplifting.

Something is worth remembering. In 1985 the charity song We are the World was recorded to benefit USA for Africa.

The stars aligned that day, 46 music stars in total. The single and album raised the equivalent of $160 million today for humanitarian causes.

Written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, it won three Grammys, including song of the year.

Quincy Jones producer, together with talent agent Ken Keagan, who managed to assemble the ensemble, put up a sign that read “Check your egos at the door” because Jones had exactly one night to cut a record that would essentially save lives and help alleviate famine in Ethiopia.

To prep for writing the song Ritchie and Jackson listened to national anthems from several countries like USA, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia. 

By putting it all into a mixing pot in their heads Ritchie said they wanted to come up with a rhythm that sounded as familiar to many people, like a world anthem.

The session started at 9pm and lasted 12 hours. This is the day of cassette tapes so most had not heard of the song prior to arriving. It was recorded right after the American Music Awards (AMA) which was hosted by Lionel Richie.

Stars arrived in limousines with security guards, except for Bruce Springsteen who drove and parked his truck across the road and walked in.

With all these names involved it was amazing that no one knew it was happening, this couldn’t be possible to do these days with cell phones, cameras and social media.

There were 46 amazing singers in the chorus, the likes of Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Kenny Loggins, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan, Lindsey Buckingham, Sheila E, Jeffrey Osborne Smokey Robinson, Pointer Sisters Jackson 5, Daryl and John Oates, Huey Lewis, Dan Aykroyd, Bette Midler, Bob Geldof, Kenny Rodgers, Ray Charles and Tina Turner. The push for this came from Harry Belafonte who was inspired by the UK star charity single Do they know it’s Christmas recorded months earlier.

At one point, Ray Charles asks “Where is the bathroom?” Stevie Wonder says “I’ll show you” and leads him to the appropriate door, as everyone witnessed the blind leading the blind.

The chorus was done between 10.30pm and 3am, solo lines 4am and 5am, so that no one would leave before the majority of the song was recorded. Everyone was told where to stand, and what, and when to sing. Genres of pop, rock and country came together to make magical music that night. There were seven takes of the chorus to get it right with Stevie Wonder coaching Bob Dylan on how to sing his line.

Willie Nelson was inspired by it saying “…Be nice if we did something for the people in our own country.” That seed would become the concert Farm Aid. The USA for Africa impact inspired many people to start their own charitable movements.

Springsteen said “Anytime anybody asks you to take one night of your time to stop people starving to death, it’s pretty hard – you can’t say no.” Prince and Madonna said no.

At the AMA, Purple Rain beat out Thriller for pop rock album of the year. Later while Jackson sang to help people, Prince was out partying.

We are the world still earns money today.