In 1985, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson wrote "We Are the World," an all-star charity single for African famine relief. Thirty-five years later, during Sunday night's (May 17) American Idol Season 18 finale, the legendary singer and Idol judge joined together with his fellow judges, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, and a who's-who list of alumni of the TV singing competition for a new rendition of the song.

Richie began the performance alone in front of a recording studio microphone, then ceded lead vocals to the Season 18 Idol winner Just Sam. More current-season Idol contestants, along with Gabby BarrettKellie PicklerLaine Hardy, Lauren AlainaScotty McCreery and more former AI hopefuls and winners, traded lines throughout the song, the footage of their performance superimposed onto Niagara Falls, beachside buildings, Times Square billboards and more.

"From our Idol family to yours," an onscreen message concluding the performance reads. The words floated atop a candy-colored, cloud-filled sky, with the singers' autographs surrounding them.

When "We Are the World" was originally released, the song became the fastest-selling U.S. pop single in music history, and was the first single to ever receive multi-platinum status. The song won three Grammy Awards, an American Music Award and a People's Choice Award.

Richie and Jackson's composition was also used to raise money for people in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake in the country. In March, as the United States began sheltering in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Richie suggested that the song could, once again, be re-recorded to do some good amid the global pandemic.

See American Idol Contestants Then and Now

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