Smokey Robinson Remembers 'We Are the World' 30 Years Later

by Raphael Chestang 4:31 PM PST, March 06, 2015
Playing Smokey Robinson Remembers 'We Are the World' 30 Years Later

It's hard to believe but it was 30 years ago tomorrow that "We Are The World" was released. Smokey Robinson was among the music superstars who were there and ET asked Smokey to relive that historic day back in 1985.

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"I had no idea that all those people were going to be there, but everybody in show business was there!" Smokey told ET.

The song featured 45 artists all together, including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Huey Lewis and Cyndi Lauper. Michael and Lionel wrote the song and charity single meant to raise funds for USA for Africa.

The charity, aimed at easing famine, is still active today and has raised more than $75 million.

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The mastermind behind USA for Africa was producer Ken Kragen. ET was with the producer and Diana Ross shortly after the song was released as supplies were loaded aboard a transport plane headed for Ethiopia.

"It's a very important lifetime issue," Diana said. "It's about lives and people dying in the world. It's an effort. We are making somewhat of a gesture to let the world know that we can make a difference."

One thing fans might not know about the making of the song is that Smokey was called away before he could do a solo.

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"Michael had told me he wanted me to do one but I had a family emergency and I had to leave," Smokey told ET.

Another interesting fact: Michael was expecting to sing alongside Prince, but Prince never formally agreed and wound up not showing up for the recording. Even without The Purple One, the song boasted one of the most impressive lineups in history.

"With a gathering like that everybody was getting autographs even though we were all in show business and we all knew each other," Smokey said. "It was just a special night."

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Watch the video for behind the scenes footage from the 20th anniversary special edition DVD of We Are the World: The Story Behind the Song.