Dan Aykroyd Singing in ‘We Are the World’ Was a Total Accident
The number one movie on Netflix right now is The Greatest Night in Pop, a documentary all about the recording of “We Are the World,” the 1985 charity single featuring some of the biggest recording artists of all-time, plus Dan Aykroyd. Yes, crooning amongst legendary musicians like Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson is the future star of Coneheads. You can see him in the back row next to American treasure Harry Belafonte, he’s the one dressed like Dwight from The Office for some inexplicable reason.
While the doc features some impressive archival footage from the original recording session, as well as illuminating interviews with many of the performers, it never really answers one important question that has nagged some fans for decades: What the hell was Dan Aykroyd doing there?
We get he was a big movie star at the time, appearing in blockbuster comedies like Ghostbusters and Trading Places, But everyone else in “We Are the World” was a legit music star. It’s not like they invited Rodney Dangerfield and Pee-wee Herman to share a microphone with Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. And because of his last name, Aykroyd was listed first in the album’s credits. That alone is weirder than any cases of ghost-sex Aykroyd claims to have documented.
The movie briefly mentions that Aykroyd was on a “wish list” of celebrity performers that also included Bette Midler, David Byrne and Van Halen. But Aykroyd remembers things a tad differently. The Saturday Night Live legend told an interviewer in 2009 that he ended up joining the recording session “totally by accident.” He was with his father “interviewing business managers in L.A.” and inadvertently visited the office of a talent manager.
“I was looking for a money manager, not a talent manager,” Aykroyd explained. “But he said, so long as you are here, would you like to come and join this ‘We are the World’ thing?” Even Aykroyd seemed puzzled by the invitation at the time: “I thought, how do I fit in here?” But then he reasoned that he had sold “a few million records with the Blues Brothers” and was therefore technically a musician — a conclusion that would be somewhat undermined just two years later when he recorded the world’s most embarrassing hip-hop track with Tom Hanks.
Also, as big as The Blues Brothers might have been, playing harmonica while your improv buddy does covers of classic soul tunes doesn’t exactly put you on equal footing with Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson. Plus, “We Are the World” turned down John Denver, a guy who could actually sing (and was personal friends with both God and The Muppets). How cheesed must Denver have been to watch that music video and see that they took the Bass-o-Matic guy instead of him?
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