LOS ANGELES — When it came time to record the 25th-anniversary remake of “We Are the World,” the legendary African-famine relief benefit’s co-writer and producer, Lionel Richie, said he wanted to approach the project from a modern perspective. That might explain why none of the singers from the 1985 single were in the house for Monday night’s marathon sessions, which took place in the same studios where the original song was laid down.
Instead of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and the late Michael Jackson (whose previously recorded voice, however, will be heard on the tune), the 2010 version will be headlined by Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Wyclef Jean, Josh Groban and Will.I.Am. It features a newly penned hip-hop break written by the Black Eyed Peas leader that makes reference to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the victims of which will benefit from the song’s proceeds.
Among the rap artists making the cut for “We Are the World — 25 for Haiti” are T-Pain, Kanye West, Bizzy Bone, Kid Cudi, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Drake, Mann, Nipsey Hussle, Busta Rhymes and Swizz Beatz.
And though rumored participants such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake were not in attendance, the sessions did feature a number of current stars such as Miley Cyrus, Keri Hilson and Best New Artist Grammy winner Zac Brown.
There were the requisite classic artists who pitched in, including Barbra Streisand; Carlos Santana; Natalie Cole; BeBe Winans; the members of Heart; Freda Payne; Harry Connick Jr.; Earth, Wind & Fire; the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Al Jardine; Tony Bennett; “Slumdog Millionaire” film score composer A.R. Rahman; “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson; Patti Austin; Celine Dion and Gladys Knight. A few actors were in the studio (Jeff Bridges and Vince Vaughn), as well as the offspring of co-producers Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones, Nicole Richie and “Parks and Recreation” star Rashida Jones, and the members of 3T (the sons of Tito Jackson), Taj, Taryll and TJ Jackson.
Joel and Benji Madden were on hand, as were Akon, Brandy, Melanie Fiona, Mya, Musiq Soulchild, Katharine McPhee, Trey Songz, Faith Evans, “Heroes” actor Jimmy Jean-Louis (“the Haitian”) and former Michael Jackson guitarist Orianthi.
Also pitching in according to a press statement from organizers were the members of Sugarland, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Mraz, India.Arie, Mary Mary, Tyrese Gibson, Raphael Saadiq, Pink, Jordin Sparks, Rob Thomas, Usher, the Fray’s Isaac Slade, child prodigy pianist Ethan Bortnick, Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke, Jamie Foxx, Maroon 5′s Adam Levine, the Jonas Brothers, Nicole Scherzinger and Julianne Hough.
Co-producer Richie said that Janet Jackson would be laying down her version of Michael Jackson’s part on Tuesday, and he hinted that some other artists might also be added over the next few days.