There’s no denying Hands Across America, the follow-up charity event to We Are The World, was a nation-wide phenomenon. Five million people turned out to hold hands from coast to coast though there were some wide gaps because of our nation’s landscape. In some cities, people were up in arms because their locale was excluded from the official event route. I could not attend the festivities, unfortunately, as I was interviewing for a job on that day. Hands Across America raised $15 million which finally ended hunger in America once and for all. OK, maybe not, but for me, the lasting legacy of the event is its theme song.
The lead vocals for Hands Across America were recorded by Joe Cerisano, a voice you’re familiar with from every Chevy, Coke, Sprite and GE commercial from the ’80’s. He frickin’ nailed the vocals. Sandy Farina’s voice is also in the mix somewhere. They were billed on the record as Voices of America. The music tracks were from none other than Toto. The single peaked on the Billboard Top 100 at #65, which is a tragedy. I talked to Joe several years ago and after I raved about his amazing pipes, he told me the song didn’t get a lot of radio airplay because there were no hot pop stars at the mic. And to this day he said the song has never been released digitally or on CD. The B-side of the single was, yuck, We Are The World.
I have nothing against We Are The World – it was just too heavily hyped by Michael Jackson – who also saw to it that Hands was NOT performed in the SuperBowl halftime show for fear it would become bigger than World. World went on to hit #1, but I still contend Hands is a far better song both on paper and on tape. The music video for the song was star-studded and very well produced. It’s one of those videos I wish I had gotten the chance to produce but, well, no one came a’knocking for me in West Virginia! Here’s that clip – I cleaned up the video and the audio – so if you’re too young to remember the event, it’s worth checking out.
Here is the only cover of the song I’ve found. It’s Dionne Warwick. The video sucks but the audio’s not too bad – although she forgot some lyrics and screwed up the rhyme scheme which kinda’ annoys me!
And finally, here’s the lead story from May 25, 1986 on the CBS Evening News.