A studioful of American musical superstars got together in Los Angeles' A & M Studios after Monday night's American Music Awards. They worked 12 hours straight, emerging at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a song, "We Are the World," which is the opening salvo in a fund-raising project that organizers hope will raise $50 million to $200 million for famine-stricken African countries.
"We Are the World," written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, is an all-American version of the British superstar charity single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which is currently the No. 1 hit in 24 countries around the world. Singer Harry Belafonte, inspired by the Band Aid project put together by Irish rocker Bob Geldof, started the ball rolling on the USA (United Support of Artists) for Africa project five weeks ago. Originally it was going to feature only black performers, but was soon expanded to include other American performers.
In the Los Angeles studio Monday night, under the guidance of producer Quincy Jones, were: Belafonte and Geldof, Michael Jackson and all his brothers and sisters, the Pointer Sisters, Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Dan Aykroyd, Tina Turner, Lindsey Buckingham, Al Jarreau, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Sheila E, Darryl Hall, John Oates, James Ingram, Waylon Jennings, Kim Carnes, Huey Lewis and the News, Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder, who did some retouching on the tune written by Richie and Jackson.
"We formed a choir with all these beautiful people," said Journey front-man Steve Perry from Los Angeles. "Willie Nelson was to my left, Dionne Warwick to my right. We went through the choir parts first and stacked all the harmonies and then we went back and a few of us did individual lines. I've never seen anything like it. This is reminiscent of the things that used to happen in the mid-'60s when some good was done by people in the music business."
The single of "We Are the World" will be available in six to eight weeks, followed by an album featuring previously unreleased tracks by some of the artists involved in the recording, as well as by artists who were unable to make it to the session. A video was shot during the recording session and will also be sold. All the artists involved signed a special poster. That and a commemorative book will be sold as well.
Perry said he learned of USA for Africa from Ken Kragen, manager of Richie and Rogers.
"I want you to know that not one penny has been spent by anyone on this," Perry added. "Everything has been donated. We were all in the studio putting this tune down and it was just incredible."
Perry also said that no press, managers or record executives were allowed in the recording studio so that "the artists were just allowed to stand by themselves and be who they are. I saw more people asking each other for autographs, signing each other's sweatshirts. It was great, everybody was fans. Kenny Rogers came up to me and said he's been a fan of mine for a long time; I've been a fan of this guy for a long time, too. Bruce Springsteen asked me for an autograph for a friend of his who has a daughter who's a real Journey fan. I signed an autograph for Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson gave me an autograph for a friend of mine. It was like that the whole night."
One notably absent invitee: Prince. Yesterday, Geldof went live on MTV, challenging Prince to donate an unreleased track to the upcoming album.