New “We Are the World” doc reveals Prince was a no-show, replaced by Huey Lewis

The new documentary about the making of the 1985 charity single “We Are the World,” The Greatest Night In Pop, premieres January 19 at the Sundance Film Festival before hitting Netflix on January 29. Speaking to The Hollywood ReporterLionel Richie, who co-wrote the song, talks about one of the doc’s revelations: Prince bailed, so Huey Lewis had to sing his parts.

“We Are the World” was recorded the night of the 1985 American Music Awards, when all the stars were in LA. Everyone from Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen showed up, but Prince didn’t. Lionel tells THR he still doesn’t know why, but he has some ideas.

“At that time, he wasn’t a group person. He was Prince,” explains Lionel. “The next thing is his rival, Michael [Jackson]. 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.”

“I was hoping he was going to come by. But there’s a point when that tape starts rolling, that’s it,” he adds. “But that has always been my only thought: ‘What if?’ I don’t quite know what that would’ve been.”

Huey was then tasked with filling in for Prince.

“Poor Huey, even to this day, he still hasn’t recovered. He did a great job,” Lionel laughs.

Lionel says doing a song like “We Are the World” today would be impossible because people are too jaded and artists’ voices aren’t distinctive enough. 

“The way to judge it is …put me together, one line per artist, and without looking at a photograph, tell me who that is singing,” he says. “One line, half a line. Tell me who that is today.”

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