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The Most Successful Charity Singles Ever

Updated November 6, 2017 201.3k views27 items

List RulesList only includes songs released for a specific charitable cause.

Ahh, charity songs. They can be great or they can be flops. This list of the most successful charity singles ever recorded features only the big hits that were for the purpose of charity. A song recorded for charity raises money that will then be donated to a relief effort, a non-profit organization, or charitable foundation. Other benefit tracks have also been released to raise awareness for issues such as AIDS research or to show support for the military. Various charities all over the world have benefitted from music recorded by the most loved and successful artists of all time, including Michael Jackson, U2, and Elton John.

One of the first known charity singles ever released is "Bangla Desh" by the Beatles' George Harrison. Funds from the track were donated to UNICEF fund for Bangladesh refugees. A few years later in 1984, the most popular British singers and musicians assembled together to form charity supergroup Band Aid. The group, which included Paul McCartney, Sting, George Michael, and members of Duran Duran, recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for famine relief in Ethiopia. The song's success inspired another all-star ensemble the following year called USA for Africa. Led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, the benefit single "We Are the World" sold more than 20 million copies and topped the charts across the globe.

Recording songs for charity is only one way stars are helping out those in need. Make sure to check out Ranker's list of celebrity do-gooders and their heartwarming acts of charity.
  • Band Aid 30: Do They Know It's Christmas?

    Video: YouTube

    Cause: the fight against Ebola.

    Performers: Bob Geldof, One Direction, Bono, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Chris Martin, Bastille, Elbow, Seal, Jessie Ware, Fuse ODG, Sinead O'Connor, Angelique Kidjo, Olly Murs, Paloma Faith, Queen drummer Roger Taylor, Clean Bandit, Karl Hyde, Joe Sugg, Alfie Deyes, Zoella, and Foals.

    Sales: Raised $1.7M in first 5 minutes.
  • Video: YouTube

    Cause: Famine and disease in Africa

    Performers: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Hall & Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News, Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, David Paich, Steve Perry, The Pointer Sisters, Steve Porcaro, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder

    Sales: More than 20 million copies worldwide
  • Video: YouTube

    Cause: Anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia

    Performers: Roger Daltrey, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, Paul McCartney, Steve Norman, Chris Cross, John Taylor (Duran Duran), Kiss, Paul Young, Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats), Marilyn, Keren Woodward (Bananarama), Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Jody Watley (Shalamar), Bono (U2), Paul Weller (The Style Council and The Jam), James "J.T." Taylor (Kool & The Gang), George Michael (Wham!), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Martyn Ware (Heaven 17 and Human League), John Keeble (Spandau Ballet), Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Sting (The Police), Pete Briquette (The Boomtown Rats), Francis Rossi (Status Quo), Robert 'Kool' Bell (Kool & the Gang), Andy Taylor (Duran Duran), Jon Moss (Culture Club), Rick Parfitt (Status Quo), Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Johnny Fingers (The Boomtown Rats), David Bowie, Boy George (Culture Club), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Big Country

    Sales: More than 6 million copies in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada
  • Video: YouTube

    Cause: AIDS research

    Performer: U2

    Sales: Reached No. 10 in U.S. charts