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‘We Are The World’ Modernized For Haiti And 25th Anniversary

Hip-Hop Media Training

Even though making a 25 year anniversary recording of "WeAre The World" seemed like a good idea, songwriter Lionel Richie was notinterested in redoing the classic, iconic song that united artists to raisemoney to fight famine in Africa.

It took another catastrophe to make him reconsider.

"We were 25 and we actually didn't have that cause," Richiesaid at a press conference during the "We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" tapingMonday. "So we were going to hold back and then all of a sudden Haitihappened."

 

Producer Quinicy Jones added, "We got a text message thatsaid coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous. So it was a coincidence anda serious one."

Within days after Haiti's tragic 7.0 earthquake onJanuary 12, Jones and Richie began working to schedule an all-star remake.

They enlisted Randy Phillips, Richie's manager and AEG LiveCEO, Wyclef Jean, and producer RedOne to help pull the effort together.

See A "We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" Slide Show

Richie co-wrote the song with the late Michael Jackson.

I was honored to be able to attend the press conference andwitness some of the taping at the historic Henson Recording Studios where theoriginal was recorded when I was 15-years-old.

I understand why Richie was hesitant to revisit the globalclassic, but I think supporting a cause like helping rebuild Haiti isworthwhile reason to change his mind.

"We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" will make its broadcastdebut Friday, February 12 during NBC's coverage of the Opening Ceremony of theVancouver Winter Olympics.

The producers have stressed that the new version has maintained some elements of the original, but there are plenty differences. Below, I explore how the two versions differ.

Award Show Proximity
Coordinating the schedules of dozens of prominent musicfigures is no easy task. So both recordings of "We Are The World" werescheduled to coincide with major music industry events. In 1985, that event wasthe 12th Annual American Music Awards which taped on January 28, thefinal day of the "We Are The World" recording. In 2010, "We Are The World - 25For Haiti"took place on February 1, the day after the 52nd Annual GrammyAwards.

3D Special Effects
Fans will be able to impose themselves into the groupperformance scene, Jones told the media on hand for the "We Are TheWorld - 25 For Haiti" taping. "We even had two people in the chorus with green outfits on sothat people can go online and put their picture in the crowd," he said.

Hip Hop Chorus
Rap music had yet to dominate the pop charts in 1985 whenthe original version of "We Are The World" was recorded. To appropriatelymodernize the song, Jones and Richie felt it was necessary to add a hip-hopelement. "will.i.am wrote a section that kinda pertained to Haiti," saidPhillips. Kanye West, Busta Rhymes,LL Cool J, and Snoop Dogg are among the hip-hop artists who participate in therap chorus.

New Lyrics
The majority of the original lyrics are in tact. But Richiedid make some changes. "Lionel wrote a couple lines in the song, changed somewords to bring it up to date," Phillips said. In responding to a specialrequest from Kathryn Jackson, the mother of the late Michael Jackson, a MayaAngelou poem would be incorporated, Jones said. "It's the most beautiful thingyou ever saw," he said. "It's funny, warm, reaching. It says, 'We are, and youare we, and we are the world.' It ends with that." Jones said they will talk withJackson'schildren about reading the poem for the closing of the song.

Nearly Double TheTalent
More than 40 artists were involved with the first rendition. Twenty-two artists including Jackson, Richie, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, andCyndi Lauper provided vocals for the song. An additional 20 plus artists joinedin to sing the chorus. As of press time, more than 70 entertainers had lenttheir voices to the new verion, among them, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, MileyCyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Toni Braxton, Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, and Sugarland.However, more artists were still slated to come on board. Janet Jackson wasscheduled to record one of Michael's parts via a remote feed from Atlanta, Richieexplained. He added that there were also additional artists collaborations inthe works.

The producers did decide not to feature any of the first groupof performers on the updated track. "This is about a newer generation mixedwith an older generation, but we didn't want to do the same thing again,"Phillips said. "It would have been easy to call those people and say, 'Let's godo it again.' [But] a conscious decision was made not to do it."

New Beneficiary
"We Are The World" raised $63 million in revenue. More thanhalf of the proceeds was used to purchase food, medicine, and refugee servicesin Africa. Remaining monies supported morethan 500 various projects in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.Ninety-nine percent of the money generated for "We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" will be donated to Haiti, Phillips said.

Prince Is Welcome ToPlay Guitar
Jones clarified rumors of why Prince did not participate inthe original. He said that Prince did come to the recording but declined to beinvolved when he was not allowed to play guitar on the song. "I wanted him tosing right next to Michael," Jones said about Prince. "He wanted to playguitar. We didn't want guitar. We want guitar now."

 

"We Are The World" - 25th Anniversary Recording
For Haitian Earthquake Relief
Artists Roster:

QuincyJones - executive producer
Lionel Richie - executive producer
Wyclef Jean - executive producer
Ricky Minor - producer
RedOne - producer
Michael Jackson
Carlos Santana
Jennifer Hudson
Sugarland
Jason Mraz
Natalie Cole
Mary J. Blige
Janet Jackson
Fergie
T-Pain
Justin Bieber
India.Arie
Mary Mary
Bebe Winans
Tyrese Gibson
Raphael Saadiq
Keri Hilson
Heart
Pink
Miley Cyrus
Jordin Sparks
Rob Thomas
Jeff Bridges
Patti Austin
Usher
Kanye West
Isaac Slade (aka The Fray)
Nicole Richie
Ethan Bortnick
Taj Jackson
Vince Vaughn
Freda Payne
Robin Thicke
Barbra Streisand
Enrique Iglesias
Lil Wayne
Josh Groban
Harry Connick, Jr.
Bone Thugs And Harmony (Bizzy Bones)
Orianthi
Jamie Foxx
Adam Levine
Earth Wind & Fire
The Jonas Brothers
Brian Wilson
Nicole Scherzinger
Julianne Hough
Melanie Fiona
Mya
Anthony Hamilton
Gladys Knight
Joel & Benji Madden
Brandy
Musiq Soulchild
Akon
Celine Dion
Katharine McPhee
Randy Jackson
Kid Cudi
will.i.am
LL  Cool J
Snoop Dogg
Trey Songz
Taryll Jackson
TJ Jackson
Drake
Faith Evans
Rashida Jones
Jimmy Jean Louis
Zac Brown
Tony Bennett
Sean Garrett
Al Jardine
Ar Rahmen

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