‘That’s What Friends Are For,’ Warwick, Houston, Wonder & Vandross

Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder at the 1987 Soul Train Music Awards.

Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder at the 1987 Soul Train Music Awards.

In 1985, the year of Live Aid and “We Are the World,” the music industry also put together its first major charitable effort in the war against AIDS. East Orange native Dionne Warwick was the driving force behind “That’s What Friends Are For,” a charity single also featuring Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight and released under the name, Dionne & Friends.

The song was a No. 1 hit — released late in 1985, it was the most popular song of 1986, according to the Billboard charts — and raised more than $3 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

At 1987’s Soul Train Music Awards, someone had the great idea to team Warwick and Wonder with Warwick’s cousin Whitney Houston — then at the height of her fame and vocal prowess — and Luther Vandross. Warwick kicks the song off with her usual tasteful restraint, but everyone else pulls out all the stops. Check out the fireworks, below.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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