Prince: Why He Refused to Perform on ‘We Are the World’

“We Are the World” is a famous charity record designed to raise money for people affected by famine in Ethiopia. The song features vocals from some of the biggest celebrities of the 1980s. Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, and Bruce Springsteen each sing on the track. However, Prince is nowhere to be found.

Why didn’t Prince perform on the track? He had a few reasons for refusing to record the song.

Prince leaning on a wall
Prince | Virginia Turbett/Redferns

Prince reportedly wasn’t a fan of ‘We Are the World’

Prince’s refusal to be involved was seen as “selfish,” according to Rolling Stone. He reportedly was open to contributing to a song, but he just didn’t like “We Are the World.”

Guitarist Wendy Melvoin revealed in the book Let’s Go Crazy that Prince hated the song. “He thinks he’s a badass and he wanted to look cool, and he felt like the song for ‘We Are the World’ was horrible,” Melvoin said, according to Rolling Stone.

The video for “We Are the World”

Lionel Richie remembers trying to get Prince to record part of the song

During an interview with Access Hollywood, Lionel Richie recalled how he tried to get Prince to work on the song.

“I mean, I sat on the phone with him for the longest time,” Richie said. “I said, ‘Prince, we’re all down [here] waiting on you.’ He says, ‘Can I do it in a separate room?'”

Richie said this sort of behavior was normal for Prince.

“I would love to tell you that that’s different from anything else he’s ever done,” Richie continued. “That’s just Prince. Of course he’s not going to be at a group of singers at the time when we want him to show up.”

However, Prince was willing to play guitar on the track. Quincy Jones, the producer of the song, was angered by this offer. According to Rolling Stone, Jones said he didn’t “need him to f*cking play guitar!”

A fateful night of partying

The video for “Let’s Go Crazy”

According to Rolling Stone, Prince’s manager Bob Cavallo told Prince to say he was sick to get out of recording the song. “We Are the World” was recorded in the hours following the American Music Awards in 1984. So Cavallo told Prince that he shouldn’t go out and party after the American Music Awards because doing so would make him look selfish.

The singer didn’t follow Cavallo’s advice and went to a Hollywood club. This decision hurt his public image.

Originally, the line “But if you just believe, there’s no way we can fall” was intended for Prince. However, because he wouldn’t play ball, a replacement had to be found. Huey Lewis and the News filled in for him.

Ultimately, the song would earn over $60 million. So it was a positive force in the world, regardless of who sang on it.

Also see: Lionel Richie Might Remake ‘We Are the World’ to Help Fight Coronavirus