From Madonna snubbed to snake attack: behind the scenes of ‘We Are The World’

From Madonna snubbed to snake attack: behind the scenes of ‘We Are The World’
From Madonna snubbed to snake attack: behind the scenes of ‘We Are The World’
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39 years ago, on January 28, 1985, a line-up of never-before-seen (musical) stars took place in a Los Angeles studio. That night, after the VMA awards, America’s biggest pop artists gathered to record We Are The World, a song composed by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, with the aim of raising funds to fight hunger in Ethiopia. Now showing on Netflix, the documentary The Night That Changed Pop tells interesting facts and behind the scenes of that meeting that went down in history, with stories that are beyond tasty and curiosities that have never been revealed.

With interviews with the main participants in the recording, the film goes beyond shallow controversies and ego disputes between Madonna and Cindy Lauper or Michael Jackson and Prince, to focus on fun stories from the recording, which started at 11pm and only ended at 6am. They quickly explain that Madonna was simply snubbed and not invited. Cindy Lauper was always the first option and she almost gave up because her boyfriend at the time thought the song wouldn’t be successful.

Prince, on the other hand, was a little more complicated. The musician was, indeed, expected and his presence alongside Michael Jackson would help show that the two were just musical competitors and not rivals. Prince, however, did not agree to go to the studio, even with Lionel Richie’s reprehensible tactics. The musician invited Sheila E., Prince’s best friend at the time. The artist was overjoyed with the invitation, however, during recording, she realized that she was just being used as bait to get Prince to go to the studio. Although she recorded the choir of We Are The WorldSheila left the session upset with the way she was treated.

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Controversies aside, what’s fun about the documentary are the countless curiosities presented. Lionel Richie reveals that the behind-the-scenes recording of the song, made at Michael Jackson’s house, was interrupted several times by the musician’s animals. In one of them, the dog fought with the parakeet. At another point, Jackson gave Bubbles the monkey to Ritchie to hold. But the most hilarious moment is when Ritchie is writing one of the song’s verses and notices a book falling off the shelf. Suddenly, he starts to hear a hissing sound and when he looks to the side, a snake stares at him frighteningly. Ritchie starts screaming and Michael says, “Look at her. I was looking for her, she liked hearing you sing,” he says. Ritchie remembers that, at that moment, all he wanted was to escape that zoo.

There are other fun facts, like when Stevie Wonder decides to sing in Swahili, one of the countless African languages, but not spoken in Ethiopia. The guests were left without understanding anything and country singer Waylon Jennings, who had already been standing for hours, didn’t like what he heard. He then allegedly said: “A simple country boy doesn’t sing in Swahili, I’m going to get out of here”, and simply opened the door and walked away.

The list of amusing stories continues with an unusual request to go to the bathroom, made by Ray Charles, who is blind. Stevie Wonder, another blind man, takes Charles’ hand and says: “I’ll take you”. Immediately, the whole room bursts into laughter. What few still know is that Al Jarreau, bored, drank several bottles of wine and became completely drunk and had to repeat his short solo several times because he couldn’t hold a note.

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One of the biggest stars, Bob Dylan, was the most out of place. The musician and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, did not seem to fit in and completely embarrassed, he was unable to sing in the presence of the other musicians. To get around the situation, Quincy Jones asked everyone to leave the room so that Dylan could finally release his voice. There are also small technical problems that were only discovered after observing the idiosyncrasies of each artist. For example, Cindy Lauper’s microphone was always squeaking and no one knew why. Until a sound technician put an end to the riddle: her bracelets were causing the noise, making it necessary for her to take off all her accessories to sing.

The recording also featured actors such as Dan Aykroyd, from The ghost huntersand Bete Midler, Abracadabra. Which also led to some good jokes in the studio, when a mysterious noise took over the recording. The musicians started saying it was a ghost and sang the movie’s theme song, while everyone looked at Dan waiting for him to solve it.

But the most priceless of all the stories is about a cameraman who recorded everything for the subsequent clip. While filming his biggest idols, he thought: “I can’t believe they’re still paying me to record Paul Simon, he’s so close.” In the end, when he went to make the invoice to charge for the service, someone said to him: “Wait a minute, everyone here was a volunteer. It’s for the children of Africa, we’re not going to pay anyone.” And he, in fact, didn’t receive a penny.

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The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Madonna snubbed snake attack scenes World

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