Hear the 1985 real-time radio scan of when we WERE the World

On the morning of “Good Friday”, April 5th, 1985, over 8,000 radio stations worldwide simultaneously played “We Are The World” by USA For Africa. The recently released charity effort, recorded as a response to reports of a widespread Ethopian famine.

The song and music video had already been out a month and had become an instant worldwide pop culture phenomenon. The track was just one week away from becoming the #1 single in America.

The Greatest Night In Pop, a recently released behind-the-scenes Netflix documentary, serves as a timely reminder of the iconic song’s enduring impact. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are The World” brought together some of the biggest names in the pop music industry under the banner “USA For Africa”. The all-star choir featured luminaries like Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Billy Joel, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Kenny Rogers, Paul Simon, Huey Lewis & The News, Cyndi Lauper and many others. The song resonated globally and raised over $63 million for famine relief.

The idea for this worldwide radio simulcast was dreamt up by Georgia radio DJ’s – Bob Wolfe and Don Briscar.

In a sign of solidarity with the cause, radio stations across the globe joined forces to simultaneously play the song on  “Good Friday“, April 5th, 1985 at 3:50pm GMT or, in the case of a newly digitized audio recording, at approximately 10:50am Eastern Time.

I was a 10 year-old radio and music geek at the time and, luckily, my 5th grade class was on Easter Break that day. I needed to hear this! I was ready. I had a cheapo “Scotch BX” blank tape, threw it into my trusty Emerson M2400 – a consumer-brand all-in-one AM/FM/cassette recorder/record player; which, incidentally, appeared to be the exact same model the Huxtables had in their living room in the hot-as-nails-at-the-time, Cosby Show.

By 10:49 that morning, I was starting to hear the musical, metamorphosis begin to take shape on my local radio dial. It was happening! The mom & pop “adult contemporary” radio stations from neighboring small-towns in upstate NY like Massena & Potsdam were playing the exact same thing as the French stations from Quebec. The easy-listening station in Burlington VT was playing the same thing as the album-rockers from Montreal and Ottawa. The country stations and even the “beautiful music” stations were all playing… the same exact thing!!!!

It was bonkers!

(Uh-oh… Now a large piece of fruit may fall on my head!)

Since my stereo was hooked up to my cable too, you’ll also hear MTV joining in on the fun too, around the :22 mark.

(Editor’s Note: At some point, I will attempt to pin-down which stations you’re hearing via timestamps in the YouTube video comment section)

This, of course, is just one example of thousands of different radio dials heard around the globe at the time.

Did you “roll tape” that day? If so- I would love to hear how the radio sounded in your neck of the woods, the day we WERE the world!