Stars Record "We Are the World" Remake in Hollywood

The Haiti benefit song will air on NBC during opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics

By Eugene Silver
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 7:12 AM PDT
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Dramatic Photos: Earthquake Aftermath in Haiti

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Singers Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Usher, Katharine McPhee, will.i.am, Toni Braxton, Barbra Streisand, LL Cool J, Harry Connick Jr., Wyclef Jean, Vince Vaughn, Jeff Bridges, Natalie Cole and others perform at the "We Are The World 25 Years for Haiti" recording session held at Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood.

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Dozens of A-list music stars gathered in Hollywood to remake the 1985 charity anthem "We Are the World" in an effort to raise funds for Haiti relief.

Pink, Natalie Cole, Kanye West, Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion, Brian Wilson and others stood shoulder to shoulder Monday night on risers at Henson Recording studios, where the original song was cut 25 years ago.

"This one, the enthusiasm, I've never seen anything like it," said Lionel Richie, who co-wrote "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, and oversaw the redux version with music mogul Quincy Jones.

Also among the group of 80 musicians recording were: Usher, Jamie Foxx, Jeff Bridges, Rob Thomas, Pussycat Dolls, Jason Mraz, Wyclef Jean, Justin Bieber, Adam Levine, Jonas Brothers, Sugarland, Miley Cyrus, Vince Vaughn, Kid Cudi, Drake, LL Cool J, Will.I.Am, Mos Def and Julianne Hough.

Jones, who produced the 1985 anthem, announced last week that he planned to redo the song to benefit recovery efforts after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12.

The song, officially titled "We Are the World — 25 for Haiti," will premiere on NBC during coverage of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, according to a late Monday night release from promoter AEG Live. There was no immediate word from NBC execs confirming the decision.

On Monday, stars converged on the recording studio's Studio A in the afternoon and stayed several hours. Richie and Jones worked with a select number of soloists, including Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, later into the night.

At one point, singer Melanie Fiona leaned on another artist because her feet were tired -- and a group of singers broke into an spontaneous a cappella version of the pop classic "Lean on Me."

Barbra Streisand recorded her solo over and over again, gesturing with her hands and shifting her headphones from ear to ear, completely absorbed in the recording process and stopping only to correct her pitch.

Later, a who's who of rappers, including Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J and Wyclef Jean, recorded an interlude written by Black Eyed Peas frontman and producer will.i.am.

Rapper Lil Wayne said he was surprised when told he would do Bob Dylan's part from the original.

"I don't know how to sing," he admitted with a smile.

The original "We Are the World" thundered up the charts when it was released in March 1985.

An unprecedented number of top pop musicians gathered at A&M the night of Jan. 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards, to record the tune. The song featured 45 American superstars, including Jackson, Richie, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper.

The record raised more than $30 million that year for USA for Africa, a nonprofit the singers founded to fund hunger relief in Africa.

None of the original performers were asked to return for the remake, said Randy Phillips, chief executive of tour promoter of AEG Live and also Richie's manager.

"This is about a new generation mixed with an old generation," Phillips said.

Proceeds from the song will go to the newly formed charity We Are the World Foundation LLC, then be distributed to Haiti.

Some top musicians weren't available. Taylor Swift's touring schedule kept her from joining Monday, and Beyonce Knowles had returned already to New York with husband Jay-Z, Phillips said.

Janet Jackson, who was out of town, will contribute vocals remotely, Phillips said.

Filmed by Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, the event was shot using 3D cameras, a futuristic twist from the 1985 version. A few people dressed in head-to-toe green stood next to the celebrities as place holders so viewers would eventually be able to insert themselves into the star crowd, Jones said.

Josh Groban, flush from doing his own high-flying solo, noted that everyone had left their ego at the door.

"I can only hope this can have the impact the original has had," he said.

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