Sheila E. spoke to PEOPLE at the premiere of 'The Greatest Night in Pop,' a new documentary chronicling the creation of 1985's "We Are the World"
"We Are the World" could've featured Prince — but he didn't want to participate.
Sheila E. opened up to PEOPLE about her involvement in the iconic 1985 charity single and her close collaborator Prince's decision to not join the mix while on the red carpet for the Los Angeles premiere of The Greatest Night in Pop, a new documentary about how the song came together.
The legendary drummer and vocalist, 66, says Prince, who died at age 57 in 2016, didn't regret his decision. "No. I talked to him all through the night. I was the only one speaking to him throughout the entire night, and that was me speaking with him, talking with him and figuring out what he wants to do," she tells PEOPLE at The Egyptian Theatre, "and I think he made the right decision."
His reasoning, however, was not due to distaste for the song. "He liked it," says Sheila E, who dated Prince on and off. "It's really not just about the song, it was really about the camaraderie of everyone coming together for that reason."
At the time, she was performing alongside Prince on his Purple Rain Tour. "We were already giving to so many, not just foundations, but a lot of the times on that tour before we even got to that night, we were already stopping at children's hospitals and doing free concerts for the kids who have cancer and disabilities," explains the musician.
Sheila E. adds, "So, it's not like he missed out or anything like that. That was his decision, and that's fine. It's not like he hated it or loved it or anything like that. It was just too much."
The Greatest Night in Pop, directed by Bao Nguyen, chronicles the making of "We Are the World," from Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie writing its lyrics to artists including Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and more recording the power ballad.
In the film, Sheila E. gets vulnerable about feeling as though she was asked to join the supergroup in an effort to get Prince in the mix through their connection. Today, however, she feels "no ill will" toward anyone involved in making "We Are the World" happen.
"There's no bad feelings. This song is amazing, and we did what we needed to do for the people," she tells PEOPLE. "I didn't feel any emotion after leaving and all that stuff. I didn't even think about that moment of me feeling hurt until the documentary. I forgot about it until we started talking, and I was like, 'Oh, wait a minute. I just remembered there was a moment,' and that's when I shared it."
During an interview in The Greatest Night in Pop, Sheila E. detailed her experience of getting asked to bring Prince in the studio. "I was looking forward to singing one of the verses, but they kept asking, ‘Well, do you think you can get Prince here?’ I’m like, ‘Wow, this is weird,’” she said in the film.
"And I just started feeling like, ‘I feel like I’m being used, to be here, because they want Prince to show up and the longer they keep me, maybe Prince will show up.’ I already knew he wasn’t gonna come, ‘cause there was too many people and he would feel uncomfortable," added Sheila E. "I told Lionel, I said, ‘I’m gonna go.’ They never intended on having me sing a verse, which was a little bit… heartbreaking."
The Greatest Night in Pop is available to stream on Netflix.
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