The 25th anniversary remake of "We Are the World," which debuts tonight during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, features more than 70 performers including Kanye West, Brian Wilson, Pink and Celine Dion (the video is now available on the song's official YouTube channel and on iTunes). But only one member of the choir overslept for his third-grade exam this week. Nine-year-old Ethan Bortnick, a singer and pianist from Florida and Tonight Show vet — he has credits at major philanthropic events and is about to film a PBS special concert — tells Rolling Stone's Austin Scaggs he rehearsed for his big moment by listening to the original tune. He even got a little networking in at the recording session. "Will.i.am called me a few days ago, because you know the Black Eyed Peas are touring, and he said, 'So dude, are you coming?' So we went to his concert, and it was amazing."
Bortnick says he was "excited to meet Barbra Streisand, the Jonas Brothers, and a lot of other cool people" and reports that Kanye West behaved himself. "Yeah, that guy was really nice. Very," he tells RS. He deems the revamped rendition of the song "cooler" than the iconic original (which was recorded 16 years before his birth), and adds that "Quincy [Jones] also was awesome, he treated me like his little grandson." Jones and Co. even reserved a prime spot for Bortnick "since I was really short, they had to put me in the front so I don't get lost anywhere."
Pink, Mary J. Blige and Maroon 5's Adam Levine also took part in the "World" recording session, which went down the day after the Grammy Awards, and early footage of their turns at the mike have hit the Web (watch a montage above). Producer RedOne, who worked on the record, told RS, "I know that Lionel Richie has been asked like 150-something times to redo 'We Are the World' and he said no to everything until this Haiti thing happened. The moment he saw that it happened he was like, OK, 'We Are the World.' "
Compare the new "World" to the original:
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