Return to Transcripts main page

Who's Talking to Chris Wallace

Open A.I. CEO To Testify Before Senate Committee Tuesday; White House Announces $140 Million Investment In A.I. Research; Music Legend Smokey Robinson Joins Chris Wallace; Representative Nancy Pelosi Joins Chris Wallace. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 22:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More than 87,000 people tried to cross through the Darien Gap in the first three months of this year, according to the Panamanian government. Just last week, the U.S., Columbia and Panama announced they would launch a two-month campaign to try and stop people from making the dangerous journey and try to open up other ways for people to migrate.

Next week, we'll bring you around the globe to meet some extraordinary people who are helping the Earth with ways to cut down on carbon, including a new technology that relies on the behavior and habits of whales. I'll see you next Sunday.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Tonight, a high-tech, high-risk problem.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think artificial intelligence is something we need to be quite concerned about.

WALLACE: Lawmakers in a rush to get A.I. under control prepare to grill an industry leader.


SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPEN A.I.: Society, I think, has a limited amount of time to figure out how to react to that.


WALLACE: As Congress tries to get a handle on the rapidly changing technology, we turn to a tech giant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're kind of an icon in this world.



WALLACE: Alexis Ohanian, the brains behind the popular site, Reddit, is now investing in A.I. companies.


WALLACE: Is Washington equipped to put guardrails on A.I.?

OHANIAN: That is a loaded question.


WALLACE: Plus, we ask the husband of one of the most famous athletes ever why he's happy to be called Mr. Serena Williams.


OHANIAN: I can't imagine my life without her.


WALLACE: And later this hour --


WALLACE: Smokey, I got to say, you still got it.


WALLACE: -- Motown Legend Smokey Robinson is out with a new album. And we're taking a good look at this trailblazing tenor.

Good evening and welcome back to Who's Talking. It's a topic that triggers both fear and fascination, artificial intelligence. The sudden explosion of A.I. tools has lawmakers scrambling to keep up. On Tuesday, Congress is expected to hear from the CEO of a leading A.I. Company.

Sam Altman of Open A.I., the maker of the controversial ChatGPT, will testify before a Senate subcommittee. It will be the first chance for lawmakers to ask him questions since ChatGPT gained massive popularity and raised major red flags.

In a minute, we'll talk with tech mogul and A.I. Investor Alexis Ohanian about the dangers, the potential, and the possible regulation of artificial intelligence.

But, first, CNN's Brian Todd starts us off with a close look at the fast-growing technology.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A doomsday warning --

GEOFFREY HINTON, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PIONEER: It's like nuclear weapons. If there's a nuclear war, we all lose.

TODD: -- from the so-called godfather of artificial intelligence, Geoffrey Hinton. HINTON: For the existential threat of A.I. Taking over, we're all in the same boat. It's bad for all of us.

TODD: Geoffrey Hinton recently warned of the danger ahead because of A.I., especially the use of manipulated audio and video created by artificial intelligence to help spread lies and misinformation.

JENNIFER DESTEFANO, SCAM VICTIM: I hear my daughter's voice and she's going, help me, mom, please help me, help me.

TODD: Like this Arizona mom who says her daughter's voice was used by a scammer trying to get her to pay a ransom. It was all fake.

DESTEFANO: I never doubted for one second it was her. That's the freaky part that really got me to my core.

TODD: Or this video of former President Obama also fake.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time.

TODD: The technology is based on generative A.I., which uses data it's given to create original content that's eerily similar to reality. The most popular generative A.I. platform today is ChatGPT, which was released to the public late last year and provides text responses to questions by using information it finds online, which, in some cases, may be factually incorrect.

Sam Altman is the CEO of Open A.I., which created ChatGPT.

ALTMAN: People should be happy that we're a little bit scared of this. I think people should be happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're a little bit scared?

ALTMAN: A little bit.

TODD: Altman told ABC News, the fears are real but the technology also has great potential.

ALTMAN: This can help people create, help people learn, help people do all of these different tasks. And it is a technology that rewards experimentation and used in creative ways.

TODD: And he's urging the government to step in and regulate the quickly growing A.I. industry.

ALTMAN: We really need the government's attention.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It has enormous potential and enormous danger.

TODD: The White House held a meeting last week with the CEOs of tech companies developing A.I. products, like Google, Microsoft and Open A.I., and announced a $140 million investment in A.I. research efforts.


BIDEN: I hope you can educate us as to what you think is most needed to protect society.

TODD: Some industry analysts and lawmakers have publicly said that will take time.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): I don't think we should panic, you know. There's good and there's bad that's going to come from this. But I think we should have a thoughtful approach.

TODD: And with A.I. models getting more advance every day, tech giants are looking at lawmakers to get up to speed quickly.

BILL GATES, CO-FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: The government has a role to play here. They won't be the experts, but they have to be part of that discussion.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.



WALLACE: Alexis Ohanian, welcome. Thank you so much for talking with me.

OHANIAN: Thank you for having me, Chris.

WALLACE: So, I want you to view this conversation, and this won't be a leap of imagination for you, like you're dealing with a rather dim student. It will become apparent pretty quickly. What is artificial intelligence and how does it work?

OHANIAN: All right. Well, first, I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. But to answer your question, for the last decade, we've seen narrow applications of A.I., whether it's self-driving car companies or, you know, sort of computer vision, you know, license plate reading companies that have very specific abilities.

But the last breakthrough, really, the A.I. breakthrough that we're all talking about now, are companies like Open A.I. They're actually doing the work of a human with decision-making ability, with researching ability, and it's rapidly evolving. And so it's something that's changing literally every day.

WALLACE: And, again, for dummies, how does it do that? How does it work?

OHANIAN: Sure. Well, for instance, a company, like Open A.I., they have scraped a massive corpus of knowledge, mostly from the internet. And the wild part about this is, if you feed enough data into these algorithms, into these models, over time, it can start to learn to identify what things are. And so here's a very simple example of this. What used to be a very hard test for A.I. was distinguishing between a blueberry muffin and a Chihuahua. Now, to a human, that seems absurd.

But, actually, for technology, this has taken quite a bit of time, quite a bit of training and the breakthrough that's happened is we're now capable of having these conversations with A.I., where it is not possible for a human to distinguish whether or not that is, in fact, another human it's chatting with or artificial intelligence. And the opportunities and what this unlocks are significant.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about that. Five years ago, the head of Google made this prediction, take a look.

SUNDAR PICHAI, CEO, GOOGLE: A.I. is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire.

WALLACE: So, how profoundly do you believe that A.I. will change our lives?

OHANIAN: Quite significantly. I don't think that is an understatement. And I started Reddit right out of college, and that was 2005. And so I have built through the social media revolution, I've built through the smart phone revolution, I've built through the broadband revolution. And I really believe what we're building through now with A.I. is more significant than all of those.

WALLACE: On the other hand, there have been pretty dire forecasts. Geoffrey Hinton recently resigned from the A.I. team at Google. Here he is.

HINTON: What we want is some way of making sure that even if they're smarter than us, they're going to do things that are beneficial for us. That's called the alignment problem. But we need to try and do that in a world where there's bad actors who want to build robot soldiers to kill people. And it seems very hard to me.

WALLACE: Here is one gentle example, A.I.-generated images of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, which raises the question, how dangerous could A.I. be in spreading information, whether it's committing fraud, whether it's interfering in our elections, whether it's invading our privacy?

OHANIAN: Let's identify, first and foremost, the pope absolutely slayed in that outfit. So, I guess we know something about A.I. having taste. But, no, in all seriousness, look, this is real. Like any new technology, it is a tool. And what I expect to emphasis is that a kind of fingerprinting.

So, when it is trivial to be able to create a million different variations of, say, a head of state saying a sentence, and it sounds just like them, right, audio will be the first because it's easiest, it will be imperative to then, if you are that head of state, be able to fingerprint and say unequivocally this was me saying this thing at this time, and you know this is true. [22:10:04]

And the good news is, technologically, the same tech that lets us create that voice that looks and sounds or looks to a computer and sounds to our ears, like President Biden, that same technology can be identified -- can be used to identify that this is real, or this is A.I.-generated.

WALLACE: What about the ultimate threat, which that is that we lose control of what we've created and the robots take over, A.I. takes over, and instead of us controlling it, it controls us?

OHANIAN: I definitely err more on the side of there are going to be parts of being human that are, in my opinion at least, near impossible to recreate. If we could recreate all those things, we'd really start to call into question things like our own spirituality and soul, if we actually have the kind of A.I. that's capable of doing those sort of Terminator-style overlording.

I think the more real concern in the short-term is how we make sure these tools are being built, what access they're being given.

WALLACE: There's a lot of talk about government regulating A.I., but I've got to say that when I see Congress haul in the leaders of big tech to question them at hearings, I am not filled with confidence. Take a look at this.

FMR. SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Senator, we run ads.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): Let's say I'm emailing about Black Panther within WhatsApp. Do I get a Black Panther banner ad?

FMR. REP. TED POE (R-TX): Does Google know through this phone that I am moving over there and sitting next to Mr. Johnson?

WALLACE: Alexis, is Washington equipped, the leaders that you see in Congress or in the administration, are they equipped to put guardrails on A.I.?

OHANIAN: That is a loaded question. No, and I think there's a bigger discussion here around our responsibility as voters to put folks into office who understand these very important technologies. But, look, we have the government we have right now and this is a matter of now.

So, I think this is why it is so important, and I give credit to the White House for convening all these A.I. leaders to get them in the loop. I think technologists absolutely have to be at the table here. And I know there are -- look, there are hard-working, bright folks in Washington and they and their teams absolutely need to be paying attention, digging in, getting up to speed quickly on this, because it's an important issue. And if we get it right, it will be great for America.

WALLACE: You invest in A.I., including a company and a technology called Deeptune. And here's an example of that.

OHANIAN: Now, my favorite part about the Met Gala is I get to wear really nice clothes for one time out of the year that's not a wedding.


WALLACE: Alexis, what did we just see there?

OHANIAN: So, that is an entirely A.I.-generated dub. And you'll notice it has a very human-sounding intonation. And if you speak Spanish, you'll notice a great translation. This is software, this is A.I. that's used to dub what would normally take hours, in really seconds.

And, traditionally, let's say a feature-length film might take 50 people months, a few months, to actually get through and dub professionally in a high-quality way, can now be done in a day thanks to software like this. And whether you're a YouTtuber, or whether you're Netflix, you can now export your content at scale much better, cheaper, faster than ever before.

WALLACE: You're involved in Deeptune as part of your venture capital company, which is called 776. First of all, explain the name. And secondly, just briefly, what is the company all about?

OHANIAN: So, 776 BCE was the year of the first ancient Olympic Games. And I started the firm about three years in part in honor of my daughter, Olympia. I made the tough decision to resign in protest from the board of Reddit and I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life building something that I was proud of and really was going to be my best work. And my wife told me, don't name it Olympia Capital, because if we have another kid, she was very prophetic, they'll be jealous.

So, we went with 776, and it embodies the spirit of being on the very first starting line and this mindset that we want to have, which is we want to help the very best founders in the world, helping them on their big journey.


WALLACE: Still to come, Alexis Ohanian's other big journey, fatherhood.


I ask him what it's like raising a daughter with one of the greatest athletes ever, and about his and Serena's big reveal recently.


WALLACE: Do we know whether it's a boy or girl and are you going to share whether it's a boy or girl?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WALLACE: Outside Silicon Valley, Alexis Ohanian is better known as Serena Williams' husband, which we'll ask him about. But inside the tech world, he's the brains behind Reddit, one of the most popular sites in the world with more than 50 million visitors every day.

We continue our conversation with the very basic question, about his big breakthrough.


WALLACE: Here is where the dim student part of all this comes in. What is Reddit?

OHANIAN: Look, I know, Chris. I know you've got the app. I know you're (INAUDIBLE).


OHANIAN: And Reddit is -- it is a community platform where anyone can find really anything that they're interested and are passionate about.


Whether it's your favorite sports team, whether it's just the community you live in, whether it's politics, you can find that home.

And I was a very naive first time CEO. The whole reason I started the company, and this is a true story, I was actually taking an LSAT, and 30 minutes into it, I got really hungry and I walked out and didn't finish the test, and instead decided it was best for me to just start a company. And I recruited the closest developer to me, my roommate got him to drop his job and come join on this endeavor. And it led me to Reddit and it changed my life. I'm grateful for it.

WALLACE: Well, that brings me to another chapter of your life. You're married to Serena Williams. And I guess the question I have is how does a kid from Brooklyn who used to play video games on weekends with his friends end up married to one of the greatest athletes in the world?

OHANIAN: And you're going to leave out my varsity football days there, Chris. I mean, yes, no, it's a shocker to all of us, including my childhood friends. With him, I'm still the closest. Life is funny. My head of comms sent me to a conference in Italy that I said I didn't want to go to. And my first night in Rome decided to just go out and met with some friends, had a couple too many drinks. And by the time I got him, let's just say I was hung over in the morning.

And because I'm addicted to coffee, I wondered downstairs. I asked the nice lady at the restaurant for some breakfast. She said, no, it's closed. But if you really need some coffee, just go sit by the pool and we'll take care of you.

And I grabbed the table, opened my laptop and then the assistant of my now wife tried to shoo me away, actually tried to get me to leave, and I refused. And I said that their party was welcome to come join me if they wanted to use the table. And, yes, she turned around, we started talking, yes, the rest is history.

So, look, I don't know how it ended up the way it did, but now I can't imagine my life without her and obviously without Olympia. It's pretty wild, so, very, very fortunate.

WALLACE: Is it true that the two of you bonded, you ended up in Paris together, she was playing in a tournament and that you ended up bonding at zoo?

OHANIAN: Yes. Oh, yes, you did your research, yes. She said, look, you should come see me play at this tournament in Paris. It was the French Open. I wasn't fully aware at the time. But she didn't actually mean it as like a real invite. It was one of those L.A. invites where she was just casually saying it. But I'm an entrepreneur, so I don't say things that I don't earnestly mean.

And so I interpreted that to be a real invite. And I thought, all right, cool. And two weeks later, I'm there in Paris for the weekend and she's shocked that I showed up. But, eventually, you know, we find ourselves on a date together wandering through the streets of Paris.

And people would be murmuring. They'd be like, oh, is this, you know, Serena Williams. And then they would look at me and be like, oh, no, no, not possible, definitely not with him. It's okay. It's not Serena.

So, it was kind of a fame antidote for her. And we spent the whole day together wandering around and, yes, we did stumbled into the zoo during feeding time and watched the beautiful like snow leopard just eviscerate rabbit, spraying guts and all kinds of stuff, and she tensed up.

I was standing right behind her. She tensed up and I put my arms on her, comforted her. And I knew that was the moment. So, I'm grateful that little bunny, whose death was not in vain, and, yes, that was the start of it.

WALLACE: Well, it led to more than that. Because now you and Serena have a five-year-old daughter, the famous Olympia that you just mentioned. And you have a wife --

OHANIAN: Oh, yes.

WALLACE: Mama is teaching her how to play tennis. We have a clip of that, take a look.

SERENA WILLIAMS, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Bounce it. Good job. Bounce it. Good job. Ready?

WALLACE: So, is Olympia more interested in tech or tennis?

OHANIAN: You know, she's more a jock than a nerd at this point. But I have, thanks to A.I., really gotten her into tech through storytelling. And so the way we do bedtime stories is actually by prompting ChatGPT and saying -- I'll sit with Olympia, and be like, okay, I'll ask ChatGPT, give me a bedtime story appropriate for a six- year-old that will take ten minutes to read and make it about -- and then it's like Mad Libs. She says, oh, Three Sisters. And, I'm like, okay, Three Sisters.

And so she's already starting to think like I really believe this new generation will have to think about their interactions with A.I., which is actually as a tool, as a source of endless creativity and imagination and excitement.

And so, look, I'm doing my part here. Obviously, I'll get her into programming soon enough, and, you know, as long as she does what she's happy with, that's all that matters. But I wouldn't be mad if she got into tech and became a CEO like her old man.

WALLACE: So, Serena and you went to the Met Gala last week, and you made an announcement there.


And we have the photo evidence, which is that you two are having another child.

OHANIAN: Yes, it's official, Chris. Big reveal.

WALLACE: Do we know whether it's a boy or a girl, and are you going to share whether it's a boy or a girl?

OHANIAN: We don't. I'm convinced I'm going to be a girl dad. So, even if we have 50 more kids, they're all going to be girls. But we'll see. I think -- we're planning some kind of fun little gender reveal situation at some point. So, we'll be surprised together.

WALLACE: Final question, Alexis. To come full circle, what do you think the world will be like for your kids, a world with artificial intelligence?

OHANIAN: The number one thing I'm trying to prepare my daughter for is a world where she will need to be relentlessly resourceful. And so the things we talk about a lot are learning how to learn. I really hope the world that Olympia and others grow into is one that's safer, because self-driving cars are on the streets, they're not going to drunk, they're not going to speed.

And I think it's a world that's hopefully more productive, where humans are still doing work, because work is so important and fulfilling and meaningful, and they're spending more time doing the work that actually gives us more joy. Because the more wrote parts of the job will be done better, cheaper, faster using a software, and you can actually spend the time doing the things that make us feel human. And like I said, I think this actually helps us get to a better state of living and I want to see that for my daughter.


WALLACE: Still to come, we turn the page from technology to tunes. Motown Music Legend Smokey Robinson is out with his first album in almost a decade, and it's already making waves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE: Were you trying to be a little edgy?

SMOKEY ROBINSON, ARTIST: Yes, I was trying to be very edgy, if I could.





WALLACE: The King of Motown is out with his first album in almost 10 years.


WALLACE: Smokey Robinson's new music is just the latest in his amazing career.


WALLACE: Whether he's cruising or crooning --


WALLACE: Robinson has shaped the sound of Motown, writing or cowriting more than 4,000 songs, including some big hits.


WALLACE: Now as he wrote (INAUDIBLE) --


WALLACE: -- because we're about to take a good look at this trailblazing tenor.



WALLACE: You have a new album out.

ROBINSON: I have a new album out.

WALLACE: And this is the first in almost 10 years. And I want to play one of your new songs from the album, which you performed recently on "American Idol."

ROBINSON: Oh, good.

WALLACE: Here you are.



WALLACE: Smokey, I got to say you still got it.

ROBINSON: Oh, thank you.


WALLACE: So, I may have already answered my own question. Why record an album at age 83, and how different is this musically from what you were doing back in the 60s and 70s?

ROBINSON: Well, Chris, I -- I -- I love my job, man. I love being in the music business. I tell people all the time, I am living my most impossible, wildest childhood dream, okay? And I love being able to go to work and do something that I look forward to going to work to do. And I enjoy the fans and all that --

WALLACE: It's a blessing.

ROBINSON: Yeah, it most certainly is.

WALLACE: All right. I got to ask you about the title, "Gasms." Why did you call it that? And were you trying to be a little edgy?

ROBINSON: Yes, I was trying to be very edgy if I could.


But I called it "Gasms" because, one day, I was at the piano, I was going to write some songs, and the first one that came -- the first thing that came to my was about gasm, because it's so -- it's such a controversial word, first of all, you know. And most people, when they hear gasm, you know what they're going to think. They're going to think orgasm, you know.

WALLACE: Yeah, that's right.

ROBINSON: So, before I really started actually writing the song, I looked up the word, and I saw that gasm is all good feelings.

WALLACE: And there are a lot of good feelings in this song. All right, I want to go back 63 years to 1960 when you were part of Motown's first vocal group.


WALLACE: "The Miracle."

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

WALLACE: And here you are at age 20.




ROBINSON: Oh, boy. That brought back some memories.


WALLACE: So, you write the song, "You Better Shop Around," in half an hour. It sells a million records. You're 20 years old. Do you think to yourself, man, this is going to be easy?

ROBINSON: When I was growing up, there were so many groups in our neighborhood, you know. And all the groups talk about is one day, we are going to make a record. That was mainly what I was thinking about. Hey, we're making records. And that's it. I wasn't thinking about getting paid or any of that. I was just thinking about, hey, I'm finally making a record, we're making records. And that was our primary goal. So, I was very excited about that.

WALLACE: Well, two years later, you have another big hit.





WALLACE: I am loving you, watching you because you -- first of all, you're delighting in it. And suddenly, you're mouthing (ph) the words. You're lip-synching (ph) yourself.

ROBINSON: That's really something, man.


Wow. Anyway, thanks.


WALLACE: Pretty quickly, a little group called "The Beatles" covered that song.


WALLACE: What did you think of that and what did you think of them?

ROBINSON: So, for them to record one of my songs, man, was just overwhelming. I was so because, see, first of all, they are great songwriters themselves. You know, here are some guys who write like that and they chose one of my songs to sing? I couldn't beat that. As a songwriter, you can't beat that. They're the most popular group in the world, and they chose one of my songs to sing, being writers themselves? You can't beat that.

WALLACE: Except you did beat that because then, in 1964, you write and you and "The Miracles" performed what I've got to say is, I think, my favorite of all the Smokey Robinson songs, "The Tracks of My Tears."

ROBINSON: Oh, boy. Okay.




WALLACE: We've got to do that together.


ROBINSON: Hey, man, what are you doing this weekend?


There's a concert this weekend.

WALLACE: No, no. You actually want to get people there, not drive them away. "The Tracks of My Tears," how did you come up with that line? It's a beauty.

ROBINSON: I had about two months or so when I came up with the first three lines. Take a good look at my face, my smile looks out of place if you're closer, easier to trace -- easy to trace what? I went through 20 easier to traces (ph), you know.

One morning, I was in the mirror shaving, and I thought to myself, I don't know why I even thought this, but I thought to myself, what if a person that cried so much till they had tracks in their face from their tears? And I said, that's it. And that allowed me to finish up the song or to go where I went with the verses and stuff.

WALLACE: Pretty good. You've got to shave more often. That was pretty great. All right, by then "The Miracles," which is what the name of the group is, changes to "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles." And I want to ask you about that because you were always the lead singer, you were always the chief songwriter, but changing the name, "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles," which makes it kind of official, was there any tension, was there any jealousy?

ROBINSON: No, there wasn't, man, because, see, our reasoning for doing it was something that everybody wanted. In those days, if you had a personality name in front of your group, you made more money. I don't know why, but you did. You made more money.

First, there was "Little Anthony and the Imperials." They made more money because the "Little Anthony" was out there. When you had groups like that that had a name out front, you just made more money. I have no idea why. Until this day, I can't tell you why, but you did. So, we changed it for that reason.

WALLACE: And none of "The Miracles" said, hey!

ROBINSON: Not a person. They said, great, because we were going to make more money.

WALLACE: Well, whatever, it kept working because now as "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles," you got your first number one hit. Here it is.






WALLACE: That's really good stuff.

ROBINSON: He's such a young guy.


ROBINSON: Boy, oh, boy.

WALLACE: The younger brother you never knew you had.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

WALLACE: It's a great song. But I've got to say that as I have been watching these clips and it has been fun preparing for this interview, one of the things that struck me, and take a look here, is how much thought went into the costumes, how much thought went into the choreography.

ROBINSON: Well, I think a lot of thought went into the costumes because we wanted to be well-dressed at all times because when we first started, we all had on -- they were the same color, but they were different suits. The same color. That's the best we could do, is get some suits that were the same color, but they were different suits on each one of us. And we just made up our minds, when we started to make some money, we would get clothes that matched.

WALLACE: Coming up, we go from the hit songs he sang to the chart- toppers he wrote for other artists. Plus, Smokey explains what he means when he says this --

ROBINSON: I don't want to be called African American. I'm an American American.



WALLACE: While Motown fans know Smokey Robinson the singer, there are top artists who know him as a songwriter. After Smokey left "The Miracles," he worked full time as vice president of Motown and he kept writing hits. But now, for other performers.

Here's a song that you wrote for Motown's first female star, Mary Wells.

ROBINSON: All right.






My goodness. I've never seen that clip.

WALLACE: Really.

ROBINSON: Never saw that.

WALLACE: So, I want to get into process here a little. Not just that song but all of your songs. How did you write this hit after hit after -- how did you come up with the tunes and what was your goal for the lyrics?

ROBINSON: Well, Chris, I have to kind of get spiritual on you on that, man, because, see, I'm a firm believer in God. I think what God gets, everybody gets. No matter -- if they discover their gift of if they discover and squander it or whatever they do, everybody gets some sort of a gift.


ROBINSON: Okay? So, I think that one of the gifts that I was fortunate enough to get, blessed enough to get, was to be able to rhyme and to write songs. And I do it all the time.

You asked me earlier on about writing and being in the business. Still today, I still love it and I write all the time. I feel like -- and I've got to keep up with what's going on with the younger people because this song, it represents -- dominating the record business. So, if I'm going to be in it, I've got to hear what they're doing in order to compete with them. So, I do that. All the time, I listen to everybody.

WALLACE: I mean, is there a process for coming up with a tune or does it just spring out of your head?

ROBINSON: No, no, there's really no formula, man. There's no this comes first or whatever. I could see a billboard sign and something is in there. Oh, that would be a great song.

I'm not a writer that needs to go and -- go to the mountains for too long so I can write some songs and isolate myself so no one can bother me. It doesn't happen to me like that. You could say something during this interview that would trigger something I might give you credit you later on.

WALLACE: How you're going to say --


-- well, I like to try that. I'd like a little maybe a percentage.

ROBINSON: Yeah, but --

WALLACE: Does the lyrics come first or the tune, or not always one or the other?

ROBINSON: Not always one or the other, man, you know. It's happenstance. Whatever comes first, comes first.

WALLACE: And I read somewhere that you like the lyrics to tell a story.

ROBINSON: Yes, I do. I do. I want my songs to have meant something. If I'd written them 50 years before then, and today when they're current, and 50 years from now, I want them to mean something to people. So, I try to write with that thought in mind.

WALLACE: I have another one for you here that you wrote for a little group called "The Temptations."






WALLACE: Bum, bum, bum --


You said one time that you want to be like Beethoven.


WALLACE: What does that mean?

ROBINSON: That means that I hope that 500 years from now, people are still playing my music and listening to it and enjoying it, because that's what's happening with Beethoven and Chopin and all those guys like that who I grew up in a home, fortunately, where I heard all that.

I heard every kind of music you can think of, basically, growing up because between my mom and my two older sisters, they were playing everything. So, I heard a lot of Bach and Beethoven and Chopin and like that, you know. And heck, they were here 500 years ago. So --


ROBINSON: So, I hope to do the same.

WALLACE: Speaking of growing up, you grew up in inner city (ph) Detroit. And it's amazing, you were surrounded by talent. When you were eight years old, you met a little girl named Aretha Franklin.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

WALLACE: And when did you know she was special?

ROBINSON: I knew she was special the day that I met her because Reverend C.L. Franklin was one of the top preachers in the United States at that time, you know. So, they -- they had money.


The house -- we lived in the hood, which was one street over. It was amazing situation. But anyway, we go there. And when we go inside, we're looking all around. And I hear music coming from a room. And I hear the piano being played. And I hear this young voice singing "Amazing Grace." And really singing and playing "Amazing Grace."

So, I peek in. It's Aretha. She is about six years old, sitting there and playing and singing almost like she was playing and singing when she was born. She can play the piano like that and sing like that, basically. So, that's when I met her and that's how I met her.

WALLACE: You also met Diana Ross who lived in your neighborhood when, I think, you were 12.

ROBINSON: Four doors down the street, she lived.

WALLACE: When did you know she had a special gift?

ROBINSON: Before we even became "The Miracles," before we even started making records, we were called "The Matadors" and we would be at my house rehearsing. She would come and sit on the steps and sing while we were singing, you know.

So, she -- and I knew that if she ever got a hit record, it was going to be amazing because she has that voice. When you hear that voice, you know that's Diana. And it was that way when she was eight or nine.

WALLACE: It's a voice.


WALLACE: It's a gift.


WALLACE: You have said that you resent the idea of being called an African American.


WALLACE: That you are a Black American.


WALLACE: Explain.

ROBINSON: I think that when they call Black people who were born and raised for generations in this country, if you accept the handle of African American, that says that you don't accept being an American American, you don't accept being born in Chicago or New York or Detroit or wherever you were born.

For generations, your family has been here, you know. Built this country, too. Sweat and tears and all that, you know. Fought in every war, okay? So. this is my country here. So, I don't want to be called African American. I'm an American American. My people died and done everything for this country.

WALLACE: I want to finish on the music. As I mentioned earlier, you appeared recently on "American Idol." And I wondered, just generally, what do you think of these T.V. singing competition songs, and particularly, for somebody like young Smokey Robinson back in the 60s, do you think they're good or bad for artists developing their talents?

ROBINSON: Well, um, the answer to your question is yes.


That means that --

WALLACE: A little bit of all.

ROBINSON: Yeah, absolutely. But the one advantage, the big -- I will say the biggest advantage that they have is that here you have these kids like -- I wish that had been going on when I was a kid, because here you have these kids from all over the country who come from little rural areas, and they come in and sing.

And even with the auditions, if they don't make the T.V. show, when they start the auditions for that particular town, kids come in and they sing for them, and those kids are instantly being seen by people all over the world. You know? They're instantly being seen by people all over the world.

WALLACE: So, I get why that's a good thing. Why is it a bad thing?

ROBINSON: It's a bad thing -- I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing for any reason. But it can be harmful to the kids' psyche who go and don't make it. You know what I mean? But I don't think it's a bad thing for any kid because in order to get that kind of exposure, before you even make a record, that's incredible.

WALLACE: Smokey Robinson is touring the country this spring and summer where you'll hear songs from his new album as well as some of the hits that made him a legend.

When we come back, Nancy Pelosi gives us the key to making deals in Washington.




WALLACE: Finally, tonight, the gridlock in Washington as they keep heading for that June 1st deadline to raise the nation's debt limit. President Biden and congressional leaders met Tuesday at the White House. But today's scheduled meeting was canceled, underlining how far apart Democrats and Republicans are from reaching a deal.

One person not in the room, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spent decades as the House Democratic leader in these kinds of negotiations. I talked with her earlier this year about what it takes to get a deal.

What is the key to getting members of Congress to take a vote they don't want to take?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Any time I have run for any office or tried to pass any bill, I spend time listening to members. It's very useful. It's very useful first if you're going to serve or lead. You have to know who you're leading and what their concerns are, where there's commonality of interest or where there are differences.

And so, when the people would say to me, how are you going to do this? It looks impossible. I say, it's not impossible. There's nothing -- we cannot let anything stand in our way. If there is a fence in front of us, we are going to push open the gate. If that doesn't work, we're going to climb the fence. If that doesn't work, we're going pole vault. If that doesn't work, we're going to parachute in.

WALLACE: Is that part of your superpower, just be tougher and more relentless and wear the other guy out?

PELOSI: Just get it done, baby. That's just what it is. Just get it done. You have to compromise. That's a negotiation. But you cannot -- you cannot lose a fight.


You cannot tire. Resting is rusting. You got to stay there.