Entertainment Music Smokey Robinson Reveals 'Frightening' Bout with COVID That Nearly Took His Voice: 'I Could've Died' Smokey Robinson, 81, spent 11 days in a Los Angeles hospital last December after contracting COVID-19 By Rachel DeSantis Rachel DeSantis Instagram Twitter Rachel DeSantis is a writer/reporter covering music at PEOPLE. She has held various roles since joining the brand in 2019, and was previously a member of the human interest team. As a music writer, Rachel interviews everyone from rock-and-roll legends to up-and-coming stars for magazine feature stories and digital news stories. Rachel is based in New York City, and previously worked as an entertainment reporter at the New York Daily News after getting her start as an Entertainment Weekly intern. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. People Editorial Guidelines Published on October 12, 2021 03:00 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Smokey Robinson performing in 2019. Photo: JLN Photography/Shutterstock Smokey Robinson is opening up about a previously undisclosed battle with COVID-19 that landed him in the hospital — and nearly robbed him of his famous singing voice. Robinson, 81, spent 11 days in in a Los Angeles hospital in December recovering from a bout of the virus, which hit him before vaccinations were made widely available to the public, he told the Daily Mail. "I am a COVID survivor. I got it severely and I was hospitalized for 11 days, and four or five of those I do not even remember," he said. "It was really touch and go, and a terribly debilitating ailment." The "Tracks of My Tears" singer said that at one point, he lost his voice, and feared he would never be able to sing again. "I could barely even talk," he recalled. "Even when I got home, I was hoarse. I could not try to sing because I was afraid. It was one of the most frightening fights I have ever had." RELATED VIDEO: Cheryl Burke, Cody Rigsby Cleared to Return to DWTS After COVID-19: 'No More Quarantine For Me' Robinson told the Daily Mail that he's unsure how he contracted COVID, but began feeling "weird and funny" just before Christmas. Though he tested negative, his symptoms didn't improve, and a second test two days later came back positive. As he moved into his guest house to quarantine away from his wife, Robinson said things took a turn, and within 48 hours, he was having trouble breathing and was rushed to the hospital. Genesis Postpones Tour Dates Due to Positive COVID Tests 'Within the Band': 'Hugely Frustrating' "Fortunately I never had to use the ventilator. I never lost my taste or smell, but it wiped me out," he said. "I lost all my energy and could not walk from the bed to the bathroom without being exhausted." Though Robinson healed and was eventually discharged from the hospital, he said the severity of his illness didn't hit him until after it was all said and done. Smokey Robinson. Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock "None of this really scared me until after I came home," he told the Daily Mail. "When I was there trying to get well while weak I never thought about dying. I was thinking, 'I am going to get well.' I looked back and knew that I could've died, because it was that severe. Then it scared me. It sounds weird, I know, but the severity of my condition didn't hit me until it was over." Doctors told Robinson that a combination of luck and the fact that he'd taken such good care of his health prior to contracting the virus helped him escape unscathed, he said. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee slowly began building back his strength, starting with walks, and eventually made it back to the gym this summer. Smokey Robinson Reflects on Motown Hit 'The Tracks of My Tears' in Clip from New YouTube Series He said that he has been working out daily to stay strong, and has had both vaccination shots. Robinson, former frontman for the famed Motown group the Miracles, also has made a return to the stage, and estimates that he's 95 percent back to where he was before coming down with COVID. "I had to work on my vocal cords and get myself back together. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life, and it was possible, so I did it," he said. "I love my job… It's what keeps me going."