It's been 25 years since Lionel Richie wrote "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson to help end hunger in Africa. With producer Quincy Jones on board, musicians like Stevie Wonder , Kenny Rogers , Tina Turner , Billy Joel , Diana Ross, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen were eager to lend their talent to the cause. The single skyrocketed to the top of the charts, won four Grammys and raised millions to help those in need.
When the original single was recorded in 1985, there was a sign at the studio that read, "Check your egos at the door." This time, Lionel says everyone's egos disappeared once they were reminded why they were there. "It lasted for about 20 minutes," he says. "Once you see the kids standing on top of their homes, on top of their families—because they're still in the rubble. ... Now, the egos stop. You absolutely know what you're supposed to do when you're there."
Despite the amazing talent in the room, Lionel says many of the performers were actually nervous. "You get in there and realize the new group can't really perform in the circle. In other words, they're nervous," he says. "We had to have three separate rooms [for soloists to record in]."
The plan, Lionel says, was for the new recording to remain a secret.. "Right after we finished the first verse, everybody's Twittered."
Lionel says the new performance brought back memories of working with Michael Jackson back in 1985—and shares a story he's never told publicly. "We're writing the lyrics of 'We Are the World' the first time," he says. "I'm lying on the floor, and I see out of the corner of my eye some records falling over. There's a python."
Lionel was rattled, but Michael was excited. "[He says]: 'Oh, there he is, Lionel. I found the snake,'" he says. "It's an albino python that he couldn't find in the house."
To honor his friend, Lionel found a way to put Michael in the video. "He had to be in it," he says. "So what we did was we have Michael singing [his] exact same part with the footage, and Janet, his sister, singing along with him."