Madonna, Prince “We Are the World” Exclusion Finally Explained By Documentary

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There is finally an explanation for artists like Prince and Madonna not being involved in We Are The WorldThere is finally an explanation for artists like Prince and Madonna not being involved in We Are The World

It was one of the most electrifying nights in music – and also one of the most baffling. The empowering “We Are The World” single enchanted the world in 1985 but to the surprise of many its famous lineup did not include the powerhouses that were Prince and Madonna. One documentarian seeks to answer why.

“We Are The World” was put together by the supergroup U.S.A for Africa, produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album of the same name. The mission was to raise funds for a worldwide hunger relief fund in an all-star team led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, who did the writing. Bao Nguyen, director of the documentary The Greatest Night in Pop, has new details about how this event was arranged and why some big names were left out.

Documentary director Bao Nguyen explores why Madonna and Prince weren’t part of “We Are The World”

Although Prince and Madonna were titans in the music industry, neither were involved in We Are The WorldAlthough Prince and Madonna were titans in the music industry, neither were involved in We Are The World
Although Prince and Madonna were titans in the music industry, neither were involved in We Are The World / Wikipedia

For all the star power that its legendary lineup had, “We Are The World” did also attract chatter for not involving powerhouses like Prince and Madonna.

“The film explains it really well,” said Nguyen. “[Producer] Ken Kragen and his staff, [producer] Harriet Sternberg – Harriet wanted Madonna. Ken didn’t want Madonna because he thought that Cyndi [Lauper] sort of served the purpose of being the female pop icon at that time, and it was as simple as that. They wanted voices that really were distinct from each other and that represented their genre.”

“We Are The World” still accomplished much in the industry and for philanthropy

When turning down Madonna, it was one or the otherWhen turning down Madonna, it was one or the other
When turning down Madonna, it was one or the other / © Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

Actor, musician, and activist Harry Belafonte enlisted the help of fundraiser Ken Kragen to put further polish on the event’s efforts and it these two that reached out to artists for the project. Eventually, they recruited Jackson and Ritchie.

“You have a generational icon like Ray Charles, like everyone had a distinct voice,” Nguyen added. “I think Ken, just from what I’ve learned in researching, is that at the end of the day, [he thought] ‘I can just pick Cyndi over Madonna.”

We Are The World albumWe Are The World album
We Are The World album / Amazon

Regarding Prince, however, was an opposite matter. Nguyen spoke with Sheila E., a close friend of Prince’s, and she reportedly found it impossible to convince him to participate.

“He wouldn’t work well in that room,” explained Nguyen. “That’s basically what happened, and it was just the environment that he wouldn’t feel comfortable in.”



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