Sunday, April 25, 2021

Best Magazine Reads: Esquire remembers the making of “We Are the World”

In its Summer 2020 issue, Esquire offered an oral history of the night in January 1985 when “We Are the World," was recorded at the A&M Studio after the American Music Awards ended. Here are some interesting nuggets from the article:
  • The song was written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson.
  • It was an exhausting time for all these mega stars to make it to the recording. Ritchie was hosting and performing at the AMAs that night, Bruce Springsteen wrapped up his Born in the U.S.A tour the night before, and Billy Joel had just flown in from New York with fiancée Christy Brinkley.
  • Madonna was probably the biggest U.S star not invited.
  • Prince was invited but wasn’t getting along with Jackson so he didn’t show. Huey Lewis apparently got his solo vocal line.
  • Daryl Hall says it was so weird not having any assistants there to help and having to figure out how to line up like a middle-school chorus after producer Quincy Jones had taught people their individual parts. Hall claims to have nailed his lines and left relatively early while others had to stick around to redo their takes.
  • They played the demo version over the speakers in the studio and it was the first time many in the room had heard it. Many didn’t like it. Cyndi Lauper thought it sounded like a Pepsi commercial. But they were all going to do it no matter what.
  • Jackson told Hall in the bathroom that he was sorry for stealing “I Can’t Go For That” for “Billie Jean.” Hall laughed and said he hadn’t noticed.
  • Jackson’s nose apparently kept falling off a bit that night.
  • Bob Dylan was nervous about his solo vocal, which arguably became one of the coolest parts of the song.
  • Everyone gave Springsteen ample applause after he did his part. It sounds like he was kind of the king for the night, alongside Jones, Jackson, Ritchey, and Ray Charles.
  • All those invited were finally finished a little after 8 the next morning.

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