Tears Are Not Enough | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Tears Are Not Enough

“Tears Are Not Enough” is a charity pop song written to support Ethiopian famine relief efforts in 1985.

“Tears Are Not Enough” is a charity pop song written to support Ethiopian famine relief efforts in 1985. It was composed by David Foster (music), Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (words), with additional French lyrics by Rachel Paiement. Paul Hyde and Bob Rock of the Payola$ received credit for the title. The song was produced by Foster and recorded by the ad hoc group Northern Lights, an unprecedented gathering of Canadian pop stars assembled by entertainment manager Bruce Allen. “Tears Are Not Enough” reached No. 1 on the Canadian pop chart and sold more than 300,000 copies, raising more than $3 million in famine relief by 1990.


The charity single “Do They Know It's Christmas?” — written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and recorded by UK supergroup Band Aid — was released on 3 December 1984. By month’s end it had become the highest-selling UK single ever at the time, raising millions of dollars in aid for victims of famine-ravaged Ethiopia. Interested in assisting in the relief efforts, American music producer Quincy Jones produced the charity single “We Are the World” with supergroup USA for Africa. After recording the song on 28 January 1985, Jones asked David Foster to record a similar song with Canadian musicians that could be included on USA for Africa’s We Are the World album, set for release in March of that year.

Foster was in the midst of recording an album with Paul Hyde and Bob Rock of the Payola$, who offered up one of their own compositions, “Tears Are Not Enough.” Foster loved the title and gave it, along with a melody he composed, to songwriter Jim Vallance, who wrote the lyrics with assistance from Bryan Adams. Vallance’s wife, Rachel Paiement, contributed some lines in French to help make the song truly Canadian. Meanwhile, Foster enlisted Adams’ manager, Bruce Allen, to assemble a lineup of Canadian pop superstars.


Foster produced the recording on 10 February 1985 at the Manta Sound studio in Toronto using an instrumental track previously recorded in Vancouver. Over 50 singers participated. Solo roles (a line or partial line each) were performed by, in order of appearance, Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings, Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, Bruce Cockburn (whose vocals were recorded while he was on tour in Germany), Geddy Lee (Rush) and Mike Reno (Loverboy).

Also heard in duos or trios were: Reno with Liberty Silver; Carroll Baker, Ronnie Hawkins and Murray McLauchlan; Véronique Béliveau, Robert Charlebois and Claude Dubois; Adams with Don Gerrard; Salome Bey, Mark Holmes and Lorraine Segato; (Lisa) Dalbello and (Alfie) Zappacosta; Paul Hyde and Carole Pope. Chorus members included Liona Boyd, Tom Cochrane, Tommy Hunter, Kim Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, Paul Shaffer, Jane Siberry and Sylvia Tyson.

Chart Performance and Relief Funds

The recording was issued as a 12-inch single by CBS (BEN-7073) in March 1985. It reached No. 1 on Canadian charts by late April, eventually selling more than 300,000 copies. It was also included on the USA for Africa album We Are the World (Col BEN-40043), which sold more than three million copies. A video of “Tears Are Not Enough” was shown in frequent rotation on MuchMusic and became a fixture on Canadian TV in 1985. A 90-minute documentary of the recording session, directed by John Zaritsky, was broadcast on CBC TV on 22 December 1985 and subsequently made available on home video.

Administered by the Northern Lights for Africa Society in Vancouver, proceeds from the project exceeded $3.2 million by 1990, with 10 per cent going to Canadian assistance programs and the remainder to Ethiopian famine relief.