Sir Bob Geldof has revealed that he was left starstruck after receiving a surprise phone call from Michael Jackson and Harry Belefonte, inviting him to record a charity single with huge stars including Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.
Boomtown Rats singer Bob shared the story behind Band Aid at an In Conversation Event, celebrating Live Aid and 100 years of the BBC, as part of the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival on May 20, 2022.
Speaking at the event, Bob revealed that he could not believe it when he received a phone call from some of the biggest stars of the decade inviting him to the recording of the USA for Africa Charity single We Are The World in 1985, following the success of Band Aid's Do they Know It's Christmas a few months earlier.
Bob said that TV host Harry Belefonte was "a huge hero", and could not believe it when he heard his voice say on the phone: "'Are you Bob Geldof?' and I'm like, 'yeah I am, hi Harry'."
"He goes, 'I got Michael here'," with Bob explaining that after Michael Jackson picked up the phone to talk to him, he mouthed in surprise to partner Paula Yates: "It's Michael Jackson."
Bob added: "He [Michael Jackson] goes, 'yeah me and Lionel [Richie] we've written this song and we'd love you to come and do it with us.' So that was USA for Africa."
USA For Africa is one of the biggest selling singles of all time in the world and featured some of the world's biggest stars including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Steve Perry and Daryl Hall and John Oates.
The single was also produced by award winner Quincy Jones, with Bob saying at the recording of the song: "I go into this room and there's Quincy.
"There's no musician who if Quincy calls, they're not immediately there. One of the greatest musicians and producers ever.
"Quincy is chatting and in walks Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Tina Turner.
"It goes on and on, and I am a young kid in Dunleogrie, County Dublin, feverishly listening to this. Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and they're coming over and going, 'hi Bob'."
Bob added that he could not believe it when he was asked to speak to everyone about why they were there recording the single, saying "he was not worthy", adding: "Quincy has his conductor thing there and he goes [taps on the table], 'everybody please pay attention'.
"I'm looking at our culture. These are the people who made the culture.
"He said 'ok you've got the music, we're going to go now but before we start, you all know Bob," to which Bob jokingly said: "No! Nobody!"
"I literally am not worthy. Wow. Every song you could think of is in this room."
After recording the song, Bob explained that USA for Africa was the beginning of the inspiration for the Live Aid concerts, which were held in London and Philadelphia on July 13, 1985, after Bob realised he could bring stars from the two countries together for the events.
However despite being the person who kickstarted the movement behind two of the biggest charity singles in the world, he was still in awe of being involved in such a project and could not resist asking the stars for their autographs on the day – and that other stars in the room began doing the same.
He said: "I do a thing and we do the song. I get the music and I go around asking everyone for their autographs.
"Lame, but I have everyone's autograph!
"Then I went to Springsteen and he went, 'ah come on Bob', and I said no sign it.
"Then I see, Bruce Springsteen going around asking everyone for their autograph!"
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