The legendary career of Bob Dylan is a widely acclaimed and rightly lauded one. The iconic folk singer has achieved a lot in his time. But in a career as expansive as Dylan’s, we’d wager that there isn’t a moment quite as painful as this one. Watch Bob Dylan rehearsing and recording ‘We Are The World’ below.
In the mid-eighties, it appeared as though the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was on a mission. That mission? To get a chart-topping hit. It would see Dylan reach out to unlikely sources in regards to recording and pick up a lot more mainstream opportunities. One such opportunity would see him achieve his goal. But at what cost?
With the storming sixties and seventies behind him, Bob Dylan’s focus had shifted. The singer, once happy with artistic progression, saught some commercial recognition for his efforts and was determined to get back into the charts. The first move was to sign up New Order producer Arthur Baker for his 1985 record Empire Burlesque, the second was to make music videos for MTV, and the final move was to join the legion of glittering stars on the charity single ‘We Are The World’.
Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross all featured in the song which acted much like Britain’s own Band Aid hit ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ With Michael Jackson leading such a pop-tastic group, the choice for Bob Dylan to join up was a strange one. Whether he was trying to further his brand under some dodgy advice or he was genuinely wanting to make a difference, Dylan became apart of U.S.A. For Africa.
The concept of making such a record is fairly simple. You gather as many artists as possible to come in on one day and hope that their star power (especially with cameras rolling) shines through and they can nail their line in record time. Below is a clip of Bob Dylan rehearsing his lines and perhaps suffering from the intense scrutiny, falters on more than a few occasions.
To make matters worse, not only is he in a room filled with some of the decade’s most prominent pop talent, not only are there camera crews swarming every inch of the studio and not allowing anybody a breath, but he has the smoother than smooth duo of Lionel Richie and Qunicy Jones trying to help him out. No wonder Dylan looks so damn disappointed with himself. “I can do that better,” he says near the end of the clip. “That’s a little high for me . . . I don’t think that’s any good at all. You can erase that.”
The recording of the song among the star-studded cast doesn’t offer any reprieve for Dylan. The legendary yet reserved singer is dwarfed by the popstar glam of those around him and cuts a frustrated figure in these awkward exchanges. Perhaps not used to so many people in his creative space, Dylan looks quite isolated amongst the crowd.
Whether or not Dylan didn’t quite match those around him because he wasn’t allowed to create his own music or he wasn’t expecting quite such a big ordeal – the truth remains that this is not Dylan at his legendary best. However, it is also the song that got Bob Dylan back into the charts. Go figure.
Here’s the painful footage of Bob Dylan recording and rehearsing ‘We Are The World’