“We Are the World” was a historic collaboration of musical icons recorded on January 28, 1985, and released two months later on March 7 to aid African famine relief. Featuring a star-studded lineup including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, and Bruce Springsteen, the song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
Produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, the single achieved immense success, selling an impressive 20 million copies. But two ’80s pop royals — Prince and Madonna — were missing from the megawatt mix on that star-studded night at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, right after the American Music Awards, according to the New York Post.
The documentary “The Greatest Night in Pop,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and is on Netflix, sheds light on why two ’80s pop icons, Prince and Madonna, were absent from the historic recording of “We Are the World”.
Despite rumors of a feud between Prince and Jackson for pop supremacy, it is revealed in the documentary “The Greatest Night in Pop” that Prince was courted to join the recording of “We Are the World.”
Sheila E., Prince’s singer-drummer protégé, was invited by Richie in the hopes that she could persuade her enigmatic mentor to participate in the all-star session.
“Man, you should come — it’s really cool,” she told Prince, who was chilling at the Mexican restaurant Carlos ’n Charlie’s after taking home three trophies and performing “Purple Rain” at the AMAs.
However, it was revealed that Prince wouldn’t attend the recording due to the many people involved. He wanted to record a guitar solo in a room all by himself, the documentary said. Consequently, Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News fame stepped in to sing the part originally intended for Prince. As much as Prince was invited to the epic song, that wasn’t the case for Madonna.
Despite being at the beginning of her influential career with the success of her 1983 debut and the blockbuster “Like a Virgin” in 1984, Madonna was not invited to participate in “We Are the World.” Instead, Cyndi Lauper, riding high on the success of her 1983 debut album “She’s So Unusual,” featuring the hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” was chosen.
The decision was attributed to Ken Kragen, Richie’s then-manager and the initial mastermind behind the project, who favored Lauper over Madonna.