Quincy Jones: 20 Great Productions

From "It's My Party" to 'Thriller' and beyond, we survey an iconic career

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USA for Africa, "We Are the World" (1985)

"I had to put the sign on the door that said, 'Check your egos at the door,'" wrote Jones in Q. He was reminiscing about the recording session that resulted in USA for Africa's "We Are the World," the celebrity-stuffed 1985 single created to benefit those suffering from famines in Africa. Jones was tapped to produce the project, and the tune was penned by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson – after which everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Tina Turner, Willie Nelson and Dan Aykroyd was bought in to sing. The song itself wound up typifying the quasi-inspirational, songwriting-by-committee benefit single in all its bland glory. Jones, however, pulled off a Herculean feat of cat-herding, and the fact that the song is coherent, let alone catchy, speaks to his skills not only behind the mixing board, but as a wrangler of divas. "If cornered, any one of them would take your skin off layer by layer," he quipped in Q, but he also admitted that in the effort to aid a truly goodhearted cause, "I have never before or since experienced the joy I felt that night working with this rich, complex human tapestry of love, talent, and grace."

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