A Wonderful Party
updated 02/03/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/03/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
The King-size birthday party was organized by Wonder, 35. He first put his talent behind the campaign to designate a national holiday honoring the late civil rights leader in 1978 when he wrote Happy Birthday. In 1984 Congress passed a bill declaring it a federal holiday, and a few months ago Wonder began recruiting performers for the complicated three-city celebration.
By last Monday the list of diverse and dispersed celebrities had grown to include just about everyone from Liz Taylor and Lionel Richie to Bill Cosby, Barbara Walters, Harry Belafonte, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan, Eddie Murphy, Neil Diamond, Al Jarreau, Bette Midler, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Ross, Amy Grant and Peter, Paul and Mary. NBC technicians mixed live and taped performances from the three concerts to produce a two-hour special.
"The message is victory for all of those who lived and died in the civil rights struggle and who knew that love would prevail," said Wonder. "But that doesn't mean the work is over. There is still hunger in America, apartheid in South Africa and the threat of war and terrorism that we have to conquer."