Sources: People – By Michael Miller | All Things Michael
Thirty years ago, 45 of the biggest (and most diverse) names in American pop music came together on Jan. 28 to record a song with one purpose: ending famine in Africa.
The song was called “We Are the World” and megastars like Michael Jackson,Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and many more gathered together to record the track in one legendary night.
“We Are the World” sold over 20 million copies and won numerous awards, including three Grammys – but the most important number is the money it raised: an unprecedented $63 million for humanitarian aid.
In honor of the song’s 30th anniversary, here are five amazing facts about the extraordinary circumstances of its recording:
1. The song wasn’t fully written until the night before recording.
Jackson and Richie – who co-wrote the song – finished the lyrics and melody on the night before their deadline. “I love working quickly,” Jackson later said of the process as quoted in Michael Jackson: The King of Pop by Lisa D. Campbell. “I went ahead without even Lionel knowing, I couldn’t wait. I went in and came out the same night with the song completed – drums, piano, strings, and words to the chorus.”
2. The recording took place the same night as the American Music Awards.
Many of the stars who joined forces to record “We Are the World” were competitors just hours earlier. Lauper, Turner, and Richie were among those who came straight to the studio from the 12th annual AMAs. Richie actually hosted the award show, and Lauper and Turner had both given live performances. Jackson skipped the awards to record the guiding vocals to the song – but still managed to win two AMAs despite his absence.
3. “We Are the World” wasn’t the only song the stars sang that night.
“We Are the World” was the brainchild of activist/entertainer Harry Belafonte. It was Belafonte’s dream to gather a supergroup of his favorite artists to record a song that’s proceeds could be donated entirely to charity. In honor of his efforts, the entire room of stars broke out into an impromptu rendition of Belafonte’s classic hit, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song.)”
4. Lauper’s jewelry ruined one of the solo takes.
The motto of the evening was “check your ego at the door” – but in Lauper’s case, checking her accessories might have been more helpful. Still, she definitely won outfit of the evening.
The jewelry incident occurs at 2:00
5. No one left without swapping autographs.
“Mass hysteria broke out because everybody wanted everybody else’s autograph,” Richie of one point in the night. “I realized that there was a room of everybody being fans of everyone else.”
As Kenny Rogers remembers, “Everyone wanted a memento that we could all keep ourselves. And we had the sheet music so we had all the other artists sign it. I don’t think there was one out there who didn’t get everyone to sign it.”
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