Tears Are Not Enough

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"Tears Are Not Enough"
Single by Northern Lights
from the album We Are the World
B-side"Tears Are Not Enough" (Instrumental)
ReleasedMarch 1985
RecordedFebruary 10, 1985
GenrePop rock
LabelColumbia 7073
Songwriter(s)David Foster (music)
Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance (lyrics)
Rachel Paiement (French lyrics)
Paul Hyde and Bob Rock (title)
Producer(s)David Foster
Jim Vallance (co-producer)

"Tears Are Not Enough" is a 1985 charity single recorded by a supergroup of Canadian artists, under the name Northern Lights, to raise funds for relief of the 1983–85 famine in Ethiopia. It was one of a number of such supergroup singles recorded between December 1984 and April 1985, along with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in the United Kingdom, USA for Africa's "We Are the World" in the United States, "Cantaré, cantarás" by a supergroup of Latin American and Spanish singers, Chanteurs sans Frontières's "Éthiopie" in France, and Fondation Québec-Afrique's "Les Yeux de la faim" in Quebec.

Although recorded independently of the USA for Africa project, it was included on the full-length We Are the World album.

The project was organized by Bruce Allen, who brought together a large group of artists to record a song written by David Foster, Jim Vallance, Bryan Adams, Rachel Paiement, Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. Foster and Vallance wrote the music and initial lyrics, Adams completed the English lyrics, Paiement wrote the one French verse, Rock & Hyde contributed the song title. The song was recorded on February 10, 1985 at Manta Sound studios in Toronto.

The song was issued as a single by Columbia Records[1] in March of that year,[2] and quickly reached number one on the Canadian Top 40 chart. It also finished number one on the year-end Canadian charts for 1985. The song's video also received extensive airplay on MuchMusic.

On December 22, 1985, CBC Television aired a 90-minute documentary by John Zaritsky on the song and its creation. A CBC reporter, Brian Stewart, had been the first Western journalist to bring the famine in Ethiopia to worldwide attention. The film was a shortlisted Genie Award finalist for Best Documentary Film at the 7th Genie Awards in 1986.

By 1990, the project had raised $3.2 million for famine relief projects in Africa. Ten percent of the funds raised was set aside to assist Canadian food banks.


Solo vocalists (in order)[edit]

Heard in duos or trios[edit]

Chorus members[edit]

Chorus members included:

Instrumentation and production[edit]

  • David Foster - Keyboards, Producer
  • Jim Vallance - Drums, Engineer, Associate Producer
  • Paul Dean (Loverboy) - Guitar
  • Steven Denroche - French Horn
  • Doug Johnson (Loverboy) - Synthesizer
  • David Sinclair (Straight Lines / Body Electric) - Acoustic guitar
  • Hayward Parrott - Engineer
  • Geoff Turner - Engineer
  • Bob Rock (The Payola$) - Engineer
  • Humberto Gatica - Mixing Engineer

Recording process[edit]

Joni Mitchell later spoke to writer Iain Blair about the recording experience: "I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was literally starving when we did the session 'cause my yoga teacher had sent me to a psychic dietician who, while rubbing her chin and swinging her arm around in a circle, had diagnosed a lot of food allergies. The result was, predictably, that I was hardly allowed to eat anything, so by the time I arrived with an apple and a rice patty, my poor stomach was making all these strange noises. Then we get in the studio, and the engineer says he can't record 'cause he's picking up some weird rumbling sound coming from my direction. (She laughed.) And it was all pretty ironic, considering the subject matter!"[4]

At one point during the recording process, Foster also had Neil Young re-record his line after singing the word "innocence" flat, to which Young famously quipped, "That's my sound, man."[5]


The song's video opens with footage from Brian Stewart's original CBC News report on the famine, and then cuts to the performers singing the song in a studio. Near the end of the video, footage also appears from the 1985 NHL All-Star Game in Calgary, depicting the Campbell Conference All-Stars — including Wayne Gretzky — singing along as the audience waves flags and banners in the air.[6]


  1. ^ "Northern Lights - Tears Are Not Enough". Discogs. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  2. ^ Mcintosh, Andrew (February 22, 2016). "Tears Are Not Enough". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Toronto’s Jingle King still crooning". Toronto Star, Christopher Reynolds June 5, 2016
  4. ^ Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1985.
  5. ^ Kevin Chong, Neil Young Saved My Life, Georgia Straight, October 13, 2005.
  6. ^ Proteau, Adam (17 December 2013). "The story behind famous Canadian music video "Tears Are Not Enough" featuring NHL players – including Wayne Gretzky and a more-than-just-happy-to-be-there Mike Bossy". thehockeynews.com. The Hockey News. Retrieved 4 May 2020.

External links[edit]