Published February 02, 2010
LOS ANGELES – The charity anthem "We Are the World" has been given a hip-hip, pop twist by 80 artists who have re-recorded the 1980s hit in the same Hollywood studio where the original was cut 25 years ago.
"This one, the enthusiasm, I've never seen anything like it," said Lionel Richie, who wrote the original "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, and oversaw the redux version with music mogul Quincy Jones, 76.
Jones, who produced the 1985 anthem, announced last week that he planned to redo the song to benefit recovery efforts after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12.
The song, officially titled "We Are the World -- 25 for Haiti," will premiere this month during coverage of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on NBC, according to a release from promoter AEG Live.
On Monday, stars converged on the recording studio's Studio A in the afternoon and stayed several hours. Richie and Jones worked with a select number of soloists, including Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, later into the night.
At one point during a break, the musicians broke out into an a cappella version of the pop classic "Lean on Me," a classic moment jump-started by singer Melanie Fiona leaning on another artist because her feet were tired.
Gesturing with her hands, and shifting her headphones from ear to ear, Barbra Streisand recorded her solo over and over again, completely absorbed in the recording process and stopping only to correct her pitch.
Later, a who's who of rappers, including Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J and Wyclef Jean, recorded an interlude written by Black Eyed Peas frontman and producer will.i.am.
Rapper Lil Wayne said he was blessed to record the tune but was surprised when told he would do Bob Dylan's part from the original.
"I don't know how to sing," he admitted, with a smile.
Asked how the earthquake had affected him, he said he had Haitian friends in Miami who lost relatives in the disaster.
The original "We Are the World" thundered up the charts when it was released in March 1985.
An unprecedented number of top pop musicians gathered at A&M the night of Jan. 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards, to record the tune. The song featured 45 American superstars, including Jackson, Richie, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper.
The record raised more than $30 million that year for USA for Africa, a nonprofit the singers founded to fund hunger relief in Africa.
None of the original performers returned for Monday because none were asked, said Randy Phillips, chief executive of tour promoter of AEG Live and also Richie's manager.
"This is about a new generation mixed with an old generation," Phillips said.
Proceeds from the song initially are to go to the newly formed charity We Are the World Foundation LLC, then be distributed to Haiti.
Some top music names were either unavailable to record, or opted not to re-record the original, Phillips said. Taylor Swift's touring schedule kept her from joining Monday, and Beyonce Knowles had returned already to New York with husband Jay-Z, Phillips said. Janet Jackson, who was out of town, will contribute vocals remotely, he said.
Filmed by Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, the event was shot using 3D cameras, a futuristic twist from the 1985 version. A few people dressed in head-to-toe green stood next to the celebrities as place holders so viewers would eventually be able to insert themselves into the star crowd, Jones said.
Josh Groban, flush from doing his own high-flying solo, noted that everyone had left their ego at the door.
"I can only hope this can have the impact the original has had," he said.