USA for Africa — the combined forces of pop stars Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and more — released one of the world’s most profitable charity songs of all time with 1985’s “We Are the World.” But in Netflix’s The Greatest Night in Pop, whose trailer arrived on Tuesday (Jan. 9), we learn that the track was incredibly close to not happening.
“The greatest artists of a generation came together to save some lives. But we only had one night to get this right,” Richie recalls in the trailer. “I received this call from Harry Belafonte and he wants to do some kind of song for famine relief in Africa. Basically what he says is, ‘I need you.’”
In between archival footage, which features Quincy Jones, Cyndi Lauper and several musicians cramped together in a small studio, Richie explained that actual lyrics for the track didn’t come together until Stevie Wonder joined the project. “I’m at the house with Michael writing the song. He hums every part, tapes and tapes of just layers and layers of him humming,” he said. “Stevie wouldn’t call me back and the recording was in a couple of days. We now have a template with mumbles and no words – what are we gonna do? We’re talking to the world, so we have to talk this out.”
The documentary follows the group of 45 all-star musicians who gathered together Jan. 25, 1985, as they “checked their egos at the door and recorded a song to benefit African famine relief that would alter global pop culture history,” the official synopsis for the film reads. The Greatest Night in Pop promises never-before-seen footage of the song’s planning and writing process, as well as Henson Studios were the recording of the track took place.
In addition to Richie’s interviews, Springsteen, Lauper, Smokey Robinson, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick and Huey Lewis will tell their side of the story as they reminisce on the historic night that unfolded, as they remember it.
The Greatest Night in Pop will premiere Jan. 19 at the Sundance Film Festival, and will arrive on Netflix on Jan. 29.
Watch the trailer below.
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