dianaDiana Ross – I’m Coming Out – 1980

This song, famously sampled (and perhaps, in this case, the sample is more famous than the original song) in “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G. It was a top five hit for Diana Ross from what would be her final major hit-producing album in 1980 – quite the run for someone who got her start singing Motown back in the early 1960s. A complete transformation.

USA for Africa – “We are the World” – (1985)

Charity singles. The U.K. goes crazy for them and has them all the time. It doesn’t work so well here in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because this track. I’m not sure. It’s definitely cheesy and a part of 1980s culture. This was a group of singers who came together to perform a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sell it to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The whole thing was inspired by Band Aid (from the U.K.). It ended up raising $100 million and selling over 20 million copies (impressive). Annoyingly, USA for Africa stands for “United Support of Artists for Africa” and that’s because a few of the artists weren’t American. Here’s everyone other than Jackson and Richie who were involved: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (who was responsible for Band Aid), both Hall and Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson (the one from the Jackson 5… not the one from American Idol), Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (the whole band), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, all three Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah, pretty impressive. Look at how many of those people are respectable and/or legendary (many of them) and think about how that would play out today. Do we really need Bieber and Kesha and company coming together for charity? That’s the exact reason charity singles don’t work in the U.S. anymore. The current crop of North American are trash. Also: not how hilariously out of place Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan sound here.

Lionel Richie & Diana Ross – “Endless Love” – (1981)

“What? Friends listen to ‘Endless Love’ in the dark” is one of my most-used quotes from Happy Gillmore. “Endless Love” was actually from a movie of the same name starring Brooke Shields. The movie is largely forgettable but the song it spawned was huge and remains much more famous. Billboard called it the greatest duet of all time, which I would call accurate. There have been successful covers, too (which we’ll get to in a few weeks). This would have been a much more appropriate song to post last Friday on Valentine’s Day.