Lionel Richie: "This is why Madonna didn't sing 'We Are the World'"

Lionel Richie: “This is why Madonna didn’t sing ‘We Are the World'”

Why did Madonna not participate in the recordings of “We are the World”, the hit of the all star team USA for Africa which in 1985 saw superstars of world pop and rock music such as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Paul Simon and many others join forces to raise funds for starving Ethiopia? The absence of the Queen of Pop from the cast has been one of the great pop mysteries of the last forty years and the question has once again become relevant following the release on Netflix of the highly acclaimed “The Greatest Night in Pop”, the docu -film that tells the genesis of the company and tells the background.

Lionel Richie, one of the great protagonists behind the operation, answered the fateful question. Guest of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight show”, one of the most loved and followed shows on American TV, the 74-year-old singer-songwriter of “All night long” almost forty years after the release of “We are the World” – the anniversary will fall next year – clarified once and for all the reasons for Madonna’s absence from the all-star team.

Lionel Richie admitted that “not calling Madonna” was a mistake. And he explained why Madonna – who in 1985 was fresh from the overwhelming success of “Like a virgin”, but she was not yet the Queen of Pop that everyone would love and idolize in the following decades – was preferred to her colleague Cyndi Lauper:

We had half a verse each available. I repeat: half a verse. We had to be careful to choose voices that people would definitely recognize. I talked to Cyndi, as I tell on the show. And she replied: “You know, I talked about it with my boyfriend… he told me that in his opinion the song won’t be a hit”. I told her, “Don’t miss this event.” What if it was a mistake not to call Madonna? Yes definitely.


“We are the World” allowed USA for Africa to raise 100 million dollars from sales. The song also won four Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year.