For those readers who are old enough to remember Bob Geldof’s original We Are The World track, produced in 1985 and featuring most of the biggest singers of the time, they will recall happy old-school memories of the No. 1 selling Christmas track.
However, according to music manager Ken Kragen, who led the proceedings 30 years ago, a lot of drama took place on that day, with some of the biggest superstars reportedly hiding in the bathroom at some points during the day.
Among the artists at the studio were such legends as Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, and Willie Nelson — to name but a few.
Kragen told reporters during a recent interview that Prince didn’t show up to record with the group, as he couldn’t take being around people, while Bob Dylan got a serious bout of stage fright on the day.
In recalling the big day, Kragen said, “We never intended to have 45 artists there. That itself was a huge undertaking. But Quincy coined a fabulous phrase: ‘Leave your egos at the door.’ And we had that on a sign in the studio as you entered the room.”
Kragen continued, “On [January 2], I decided that I’m going to get two artists a day, and I’m going to work from the top of the record charts … I already had Michael who was number one, Lionel was maybe number three, Prince was number two. My idea was, by the time I got into bed, I would add two artists until I got to 15-18 artists.”
He added that for the recording, most of the singers arrived in fancy limos.
“There was a huge crowd of people outside and I was standing at the front of the studios welcoming the artists. All of a sudden, through the crowd, this guy pushes his way to the front. He’s in a leather jacket, wearing cut-off gloves, and it’s Bruce.”
In recalling Bob Dylan’s stage fright, Kragen recalled, “I’m a huge fan of his, and when he had to record his part of the song, it just didn’t sound like Bob. Quincy and Lionel cleared the studio, and they had him go up to the microphone, they sat down at the piano, did his part and imitated what he should sound like, then he went up to the microphone and did it.”
However, possibly the most surprising allegation is that the King of Pop himself, the late and great Michael Jackson, was so petrified when Bob Geldof ranted hard at the singers that he took himself to the bathroom, remaining there for quite some time.
As per Ken, “The picture that was taken for the album cover, and was the front cover of Time magazine, was done first but we couldn’t find Michael,” remembers Ken. “I went looking for him all through the studio until I found him in the bathroom curled up on the counter. He was so intimidated. He had never recorded with all these superstars. I said to him, ‘Michael, you’ve gotta come out. You wrote the record.’ ”