The star power that was in this room is still unbelievable.
Back on January 25th, 1985, more than 45 of music’s biggest names showed up to A&M Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles to lend their voices for “We Are the World,” which was a charity single for the supergroup USA for Africa to benefit African famine relief.
Led by Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, artists like Cyndi Lauper, Smokey Robinson, Bruce Springsteen, Dionne Warwick and country music’s own Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kenny Rogers gathered and recorded one of the most star-studded songs of all-time… but it didn’t come easy.
I mean, can you imagine how difficult it was to get so many of them in one room at the same time considering how busy everyone was? These were the stars of a generation, and part of what makes the single so impressive is the sheer fact that they pulled it off.
Released on Netflix yesterday, the new documentary The Greatest Night in Pop takes viewers behind the scenes with never-before-scene footage of the recording process, in addition to featuring commentary from artists Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, Huey Lewis and other musicians, engineers and production crew that contributed to the recording process.
The film will take you from the early planning stages when Jackson and Richie, who is also a producer on the documentary, were writing the song, to how they were able to assemble so much star power back in a time when cell phones and email certainly didn’t exist.
I’m most intrigued to hear about how they were able to tame the egos of all of these megastars, though I think the the sign where they walked in that said “Please check your egos at the door” probably did humble some of them. Stevie Wonder also greeted them all there, and told the artists that if they didn’t get the song in one take, he and the only other blind man there, Ray Charles, would drive them home.
The aforementioned Willie, Waylon and Kenny are also featured in the vintage footage, which will make it all the more fun to watch. There’s long been discussion about whether or not Waylon stayed for the whole recording after a fight broke out (which they briefly touch on in the documentary trailer), so I’m hoping to get some answers there too.
Either way, it sounds like an incredibly inside and fascinating look at a very important moment in music history.
After recording for hours late into the night and early the next morning, the group finished the final version at 8AM, and the song went on to become one of the biggest hit singles of all time, selling more than 20 million copies and raising more than $63 million for famine relief in Africa.
You can check out the trailer below, and I highly recommend doing so if you’re a music fan of any kind. The documentary is now streaming on Netflix: