We are the World

The Election Day Concert that will be held in Charleston was inspired by the "We are the World" music video produced in 1985. 

In 1985, 50 celebrity musicians came together for one common cause: to raise money for the victims of the African famine that hit Ethiopia in '83. 

The result was the emotional "We are the World" music video, which featured vocal stars such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles and many others performing the ballad of unity at a studio in Los Angeles.

Even Daryl Hall, who now has a home here in Charleston, was one of the stars seen in the famous video. 

The song sold 20 million copies worldwide and raised over $63 million for the cause, equivalent to $141 million today. 

Charleston musician Lindsay Holler, who co-organizes the "Women &" concerts at the Music Hall, remembers first watching that video when she was 9 years old. It gave her chills. 

"I’m old enough to remember when that came out, and the video is very nostalgic for me," she says, adding, "Music is one of those binding agents that can transcend a lot of stuff. It can work as a motivator or a uniter."

In 2014, Lindsay Holler decided to take that very concept and translate it into something that would bring the local community together. 

The result was her creation of the "We are the World" concert, at which 21 Charleston musicians (to match the number of soloists in the music video) perform the song on stage. Each participant on stage then is paired with the spirit of one of the 21 "We are the World" stars and performs a song by that musician — maybe "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson or "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, for example. 

Holler held the first of these concerts at the Tin Roof, and it was a huge logistical challenge. 

"Fitting 21 singers on the Tin Roof stage is tough," she says with a laugh. "We had three mics and the singers in a line and it was one part right after another, and a lot of moving back and moving back in. It's all about timing." 

Up until the start of the first song, she said she wasn't sure if she could pull it off — but everything fell into place. She followed up the debut with a second "We are the World" concert at the Pour House, this time with a bigger stage and a little more breathing room. Now she's hosting it at the Charleston Music Hall.

The event falls on Election Day as a way to encourage people to go out to the polls and then to come together for the hope of a better future. It's just $5 to get in with an "I Voted" sticker.

lindsay holler music charleston.jpg (copy)

Lindsay Holler is the producer of the "We are the World" Election Day Concert at the Charleston Music Hall. 

"I’m very passionate right now about voting," Holler says. "It's our civic duty. I think that’s huge. At one point, this had been more of a get-out-the-vote scenario. Everybody needs to do that now more than ever, I think."

Charleston musicians performing at this year's "We are the World" Election Day concert are: Aisha Kenyetta, Art Perry, Bill Carson, Brett Nash, Charles Carmody, Chris Williams, Christian Smalls, Clare Elich, Dan Hanf, Dwayne Mitchell, Jack Burg, Jairus McClanahan, Johnny Puke, Jordan Igoe, Lindsay Holler, Matt Williams, Mel Washington, Thomas McElwee, Tim Davis and Zandrina Dunning.

The house band for the evening includes Tyler Ross, Sam Sfirri, George Baerreis and Stuart White. 

There will only be one rehearsal before the Music Hall show, since it's quite the challenge to get so many musicians available and together at one time. But Holler is confident everyone can pull it off, especially after a few years of hosting the event with no major snafus.

"It's a good community-building experience," Holler says. "And it's not a stretch. Back then, there was the focus on famine in Africa, but it might be even more poignant now when you can point to your own country. We’ve got to come together here. We’re all in this together."

And music seems to have a way of doing just that. 

"While the music’s playing, no one’s enemies," Holler says. "I hope that something like that comes out of it."

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Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.