A treasure trove of behind the scenes footage and nostalgia, THE GREATEST NIGHT IN POP is a star-studded blast loaded with discoveries.
In January of 1985, Harry Belafonte, music producer Ken Kragen and Quincy Jones were impressed with the impact of Bob Geldof's high-impact Band-Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas".
They envisioned coming together to create a new single & video to benefit African famine relief.
New interviews are mixed with archival interviews to create a fascinating timeline of how the project came together.
Quincy Jones contacted Lionel Richie, who immediately contacted an elusive Stevie Wonder and then Michael Jackson to help him write the song.
Richie is a highlight, serving as our narrator throughout the film. He shares funny stories and moving moments in equal measure. We had the chance to see Richie last year at The Wynn in Vegas and you walked out of the concert feeling like you knew him. His kindness and compassion shone through, just as it does here.
The trio decide to record the song and video the night of the American Music Awards, setting up an almost impossible deadline the following month.
Documentary filmmaker Bao Nguyen is fortunate that he has so much video footage to play with and he crafts it perfectly, making you feel like you're there the entire night that "We Are The World" was recorded.
Seeing all these megastars at their peak nearly 40 years ago is a hell of a lot of fun.
We watch the artists arrive, none earlier than Michael Jackson, who stuns with his solitary recordings of several of the lines in the song. Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper belt their lines on every take, blowing the roof off. A nervous Huey Lewis jumps in as a last minute replacement. Every star gets their moment and make an impression, some better than others as personalities. Steve Wonder, Steve Perry (holy crap can he sing!) Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Belafonte, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson are all terrific.
Bob Dylan arrives and I saw sides of him I've never seen. He remains an enigma, and one who I still insist can't sing, but there's no doubt he's fascinating as hell to watch.
As the night hours slip away and the recording sessions roll into daylight, tensions fray and patience fades.
If you loved the 80's, remember these artists and that time and bought the single like so many of us did, you're going to really enjoy THE GREATEST NIGHT IN POP.
It's beautifully made and loaded with humor.
As Paul Simon stands back and observes the room, he says "If a bomb drops on this place, John Denver is back on top." Richie generates big laughs as he keeps the room engaged and everyone on the same road. It's like herding 100 A-List cats.
And Latoya Jackson.
Watching all these super stars take Quincy's advice and "check their egos at the door" is fascinating, earning this superb doc an A.