Prince Skipped "We Are the World" Over Michael Jackson Feud, Lionel Richie Says
The "Raspberry Beret" singer was a no-show to the recording of the 1985 charity single.
In 1985, the massive charity single "We Are the World" brought together over three dozen musicians, including Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, and Ray Charles. To add even more star power, the song was produced by Quincy Jones and co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. But while the group assembled for the recording was a who's who of popular artists, one wasn't there: Prince, who didn't show up to the studio even though he was supposed to. In a new interview, Richie revealed that the artist was absent, he believes, because of his long feud with another star. The 74-year-old musician posited that Prince didn't want to be near Jackson.
The Hollywood Reporter recently interview Richie about the documentary The Greatest Night in Pop (on Netflix Jan. 29), which is about the night "We Are the World" was recorded. Its famous participants assembled to record the song overnight in Los Angeles after the American Music Awards. The publication asked the "Hello" singer why Prince didn't appear on the single.
"That's the 97 billion-dollar question," Richie replied. "Knowing him, it just wasn't in his, what should I say, his brand. At that time, he wasn't a group person. He was Prince. The next thing is his rival, Michael. Do you want to stop the rivalry and join a group of people singing a song, standing next to his rival? No. I mean, from a strictly egotistical point of view, I could see it."
Richie added that he still thought, leading up to the recording, that there was a "50/50" chance that Prince would show up. "I knew where he was," he continued. "Carlos n' Charlies [a Mexican restaurant on the Sunset Strip]. I was hoping he was going to come by. But there's a point when that tape starts rolling, that's it. But that has always been my only thought. What if. I don't quite know what that would've been."
The rivalry between Prince and Jackson has been well-documented. According to some accounts, it stems back to a 1983 James Brown concert in which Jackson got Brown to call Prince to the stage. The story goes that Jackson hoped Prince would embarrass himself, and Prince did end up knocking over a prop streetlight. In a recording of Jackson that was released in 2016 after both singers' deaths, he said of the situation (via the Mirror), "He made a fool of himself. He was a joke. People were running and screaming. I was so embarrassed. It was all on video."
In the recordings, Jackson also said, "I don't like to be compared to Prince at all. I have proven myself since I was real little. It's not fair. He feels like I'm his opponent. I hope he changes because boy, he's gonna get hurt. He's the type that might commit suicide or something." Jackson added, "He was so rude, one of rudest people I have ever met. Prince is very competitive. He has been very mean and nasty to my family."
Prince not showing up for "We Are the World" has also been cited as a point of contention for Jackson. Because Prince wasn't there, his part of the song ended up going to Huey Lewis.
"Poor Huey, even to this day, he still hasn't recovered," Richie told The Hollywood Reporter. "He did a great job. But the thing about it, every time we started rehearsing, we get halfway around the thing. We go past Michael, and once we get past Michael, we would stop because we had to go back and correct somebody else's microphone or somebody else's vocal part. So we never got a chance to go from Cyndi to Huey. And Huey was going, 'Guys, can you do me a favor? Can you just run it one time 'cause I don't know what I'm singing yet."
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