If like the older folks in Marcellus, you grew up in the 1980s, chances are that you either sang ‘We are the world’ in a music class (or competition) or in the bathroom. The folks at Netflix have turned the making of this incredible song from 1985 into a documentary titled ‘The Greatest Night in Pop’, We learn plenty from this documentary not just about the making of ‘We are the world’ but about the talents, egos and limitations of the greatest pop musicians in the second half of the of the 20th century. Incredibly, even though ‘We are the world’ would go on to become one of the most listened to songs ever, the whole thing – with its star cast of dozens of legendary singers – was recorded over the course of one night at the A&M Studios in Los Angeles.

We learn that the whole thing was Harry Belafonte’s idea. He pitched it to Lionel Ritchie who in turned teamed up with Michael Jackson to write the song. In fact, even a week prior to the recording, the two of them were still working on the song:

“Richie co-wrote “We Are The World” with Michael Jackson, and Richie credits Jackson for writing the titular line, “We are the world.” But some of the featured singers also played a key role in producing the song during a hectic recording session. For example, Bob Dylan was struggling with his line, uncomfortable with how packed the room was. He called over Stevie Wonder to help him, and Wonder sat at the piano and sang it the way he thought Dylan should sing it, mimicking the indie artist’s folksy voice. Then Dylan went on to nail his section.

The song was an instant hit. In the March 25, 1985, issue of TIME, the magazine rattled off a list of stats that show the single was shaping up to be “the smash of the decade.” Tower Records’ Sunset Boulevard store in West Hollywood sold 1,000 copies in two days, compared to about 100-125 copies in a given week. The magazine argued that what’s most notable about the song is how “musicians from rival factions of the business are seen putting aside differences of style and temperament and coming together to share and spread a little decency.” The story even urged readers to buy it, writing, “The song is sappy and overextended, but go ahead and tell that to the teenagers who are buying five copies at a time at Tower Records, then giving them to their friends on condition they each go out and buy five more. Go ahead. Tell them. Then buy a record.” Most of the “We Are The World” proceeds went to USA for Africa—short for USA (United Support of Artists) for Africa—which was raising money to end poverty on the continent, while 10% was set aside for efforts to combat homelessness in the U.S., per Wonder’s request.”

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