We Are Still the World, 25 Years Later
I cannot tell a lie.
When I first heard that Wyclef Jean and a few of his musical friends were getting together to re-record “We Are the World” for Haitian earthquake relief, I was slightly skeptical. From a social standpoint, it’s a commendable gesture, but from a musical one, why mess with a classic?
Even rapper Lil Wayne wasn’t so sure. His reaction when they asked him to do Bob Dylan’s verse from the original: “You guys are real good comedians.”
Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking.
But Wyclef’s head was in as good a place as his heart. First, he got original “We Are the World” producer Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie, who cowrote the 1985 single with Michael Jackson and already had been planning a 25th anniversary re-recording with Jones, involved as his co-executive producers. Instant credibility and two major links from past to present.
Ah, yes, the present. Of course there are the usual 2010 suspects, many of them rappers (hip hop was barely a blip on the pop music canvas a quarter of a century ago) and many of them whippersnappers who weren’t even born when the original was released: Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, Drake and, naturally, Lady Gaga.
Then someone — something tells me it was Quincy — got the bright idea to call in the big guns, durable stars who would bring real gravitas and increased credibility to the proceedings: Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Janet Jackson, Gladys Knight, Harry Connick Jr., Jeff Bridges and Barbra Streisand.
When Streisand sings people listen.
And just in case they don’t, there will be some decidedly 21st-century touches to encourage them to. When the video, directed by Paul Haggis (Crash) makes its world premiere on NBC during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 12, it will be viewable in 3D. There’ll also be an online version where regular folks can place themselves in the “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti” line up.
So even if you aren’t Josh Groban, who will be singing the line that Kenny Rogers sang in the original, or Justin Bieber, who’s tackling Lionel Richie’s opening couplet, you can still be a part of history in the remaking.