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‘The Greatest Night in Pop’ Doc to Chronicle the Creative Journey Behind ‘We Are the World’

Film will premiere at Sundance this month before arriving on Netflix Jan. 29

A new documentary, The Greatest Night in Pop, will dig into the history of the 1985 charity smash, “We Are the World.” The film will have its premiere at Sundance on Jan. 19 and then hit Netflix not long after on Jan. 29.

Directed by Bao Nguyen, The Greatest Night in Pop will feature a plethora of previously-unseen footage as it traces the “We Are the World” story from the planning stages through the all-star recording session. The movie will offer a glimpse at Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson’s writing sessions and all the work that went into getting 46 of the globe’s biggest music stars in the same studio on the same day to record the hit track. (Producer Quincy Jones famously placed a sign on the door to the studio: “Check your egos at the door.”)

The Greatest Night in Pop will feature interviews with several of the artists who appeared on the song, including Richie, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper, Dionne Warwick, Huey Lewis, and Kenny Loggins. Other personnel, including the session musicians, engineers, and production crew, will also share their recollections. 

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“We Are the World” was originally the brainchild of Harry Belafonte, who came up with the idea following the success of the Band Aid charity Christmas single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The song was recorded on Jan. 28, 1985, at Hollywood’s A&M Studios (now known as Henson Studios), with many of the artists heading right to the session after attending that night’s American Music Awards. 

Upon its release in March 1985, “We Are the World” became one of the biggest songs ever made, selling over 20 million copies worldwide and becoming the first single to earn multi-platinum certification from the RIAA. It’s estimated the song helped raise over $63 million (in 1985 dollars) for humanitarian aid in Africa. 

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