Gary: “This is an update or re-write of something I wrote earlier. I have been focused on the 70’s and then got a reminder that maybe I had not really completed some earlier projects, so here I go.
I did an extensive look at Motown, but, it was general and not detailed enough. Some of the groups or individuals, I think require a separate post.
I just finished looking at the Temptations and that reminded me that their first song was written by the person I will look at tonight, Smokey Robinson. He wrote “The way you do the things you do” with Buddy Rogers and it was huge.
I remember Smokey mainly with just “The Miracles” which included his wife to be Claudette. He has had a very long and extremely respected and successful career with Motown and Berry Gordy.
Some of their Music:
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
The Miracles (without Smokey)
William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. (born February 19, 1940) is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson is one of the primary figures associated with Motown Records, second only to the company’s founder, Berry Gordy.Robinson’s consistent commercial success and creative contributions to the label have earned him the title “King of Motown.”
As a member of the vocal group The Miracles and as a solo artist, Robinson delivered thirty-seven Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987. He also served as the company’s vice president from 1961 to 1988.
Early years and formation of the Miracles
Robinson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan’s North End neighbourhood. As a child he was nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by an uncle because of his love of cowboy movies. In his teens, this was shortened to “Smokey.”
In an interview, Robinson claims he has been friends with Diana Ross since she was eleven years old. In 1955, Robinson co-founded a vocal group called The Five Chimes with his best friend Ronald White, and Northern High School classmates Pete Moore , Clarence Dawson, and James Grice.
By 1957, the group was renamed the Matadors and included cousins Emerson and Bobby Rogers in place of Dawson and Grice. Emerson was replaced by his sister Claudette Rogers, who later married Robinson. Guitarist Marv Tarplin joined the group in 1958.
With Robinson as lead singer, the Matadors began touring Detroit venues. In 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who co-wrote for them the single “Got a Job,” an answer song to the Silhouettes’ hit single “Get a Job.”
The group renamed itself the Miracles, and issued singles on both End Records and Chess Records. Shortly thereafter, Robinson suggested to Gordy that he start a label of his own.
In 1959, Gordy founded Tamla Records, which he soon reincorporated as Motown. The Miracles were among the label’s first signees. Gordy and Robinson had a synergistic relationship, with Robinson providing a foundation for Motown’s hit-making success and Gordy acting as a mentor for the budding singer and songwriter.
By 1961, Gordy had appointed Robinson vice-president of Motown Records, a title Robinson holds for as long as Gordy remains with the company.
Motown and The Miracles
The 1960 single “Shop Around” was Motown’s first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and the first major chart success for The Miracles. The song was also Motown’s first million selling hit single.
Besides penning hits for his own group, Robinson wrote and produced singles and album tracks for other Motown artists. Mary Wells had a hit with the Robinson-penned “My Guy” (1964).
Robinson served as The Temptations‘ primary songwriter and producer from 1963 to 1966, penning such hits as “The Way You Do the Things You Do“, “My Girl“, “Since I Lost My Baby“, and “Get Ready“.
His hit songs also earned him the title “America’s poet laureate of love.” During the course of his 50-year career in music, Robinson has accumulated more than 4,000 songs to his credit. John Lennon of The Beatles made countless remarks regarding Robinson’s influence on his music.
In a 1969 interview, Lennon stated that one of his favourite songs was The Miracles’ “I’ve Been Good To You”, which has similar lyrics to Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie”. George Harrison also greatly admired Robinson and paid tribute to him in his 1976 song “Pure Smokey”. (The Beatles had recorded Robinson and The Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” in 1963.) Bob Dylan said of Robinson, that he was “America’s greatest living poet.”
After marrying Claudette Rogers, Robinson started a family, and named both of his children after Motown: his son was named Berry after the company’s founder, and his daughter Tamla after the Motown imprint for which Robinson and The Miracles recorded.
The Miracles remained a premier Motown act through most of the 1960s. Albums were released as “Smokey Robinson & the Miracles” after 1965. By 1969, the group’s fortunes began to falter, and Robinson decided to quit The Miracles so that he could remain at home with his family and concentrate on his duties as vice president.
The group stopped recording and Robinson prepared to leave the group. Unexpectedly, however, their 1969 recording “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” hit the national Billboard Pop Top 10, and when their 1966 recording of “The Tears of a Clown” was released as a single in 1970, it became a number-one hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
With the surprise success of “The Tears of a Clown”, Robinson was convinced to remain with The Miracles for a few more years. In 1972, however, he followed through on his original plans to leave the group, and The Miracles began a six-month farewell tour. On July 16, 1972, Smokey and Claudette Robinson gave their final performances as Miracles at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington, DC, and Robinson introduced the group’s new lead singer, Billy Griffin. The Miracles went on for a while, even having another number one hit, “Love Machine”, in 1976,and a Platinum Album with City Of Angels that same year.
Successful solo career
Smokey Robinson began a low-key solo career while concentrating on his duties as vice president of Motown, releasing his first solo LP, Smokey, in 1973. His first hit single, “Sweet Harmony” (1973), was dedicated to The Miracles.
In 1975, Robinson’s solo career went into full-drive after the success of the number one R&B hit “Baby That’s Backatcha”. Robinson’s 1976 single “Quiet Storm” and its accompanying album typified a genre of smooth, slow R&B that has spawned late-night radio shows called “quiet storm.” Other Robinson solo hits include “Cruisin'” (1979), “Being With You” (a U.K. number-one hit) (1981), “Tell Me Tomorrow” (1982), and “Ebony Eyes”, a duet with labelmate Rick James (1983). He also recorded the soundtrack to the film Big Time (1977).
Later years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Controversy, and awards and accolades
During the mid-1980s, Robinson fell victim to cocaine addiction. His recording slowed, and his marriage to Claudette faltered; the two were divorced in 1986. With the help of friend Leon Kennedy (as described in Robinson’s autobiography “Smokey”), Robinson was dramatically healed of his addiction at a religious service. He eventually revitalized his career, scoring hits in 1987 with the Grammy Award-winning “Just to See Her” (a U.S. #8 hit) and “One Heartbeat” (U.S. #10). Also in 1987, British band ABC scored a U.S. and U.K. hit with their tribute to Robinson entitled “When Smokey Sings.” In 1987, Robinson published his autobiography, Smokey, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. However, in a decision that has since sparked much controversy, the other original members of his group, The Miracles, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin, and Claudette Robinson, were not.
Upon Motown’s sale to MCA in 1988, Robinson resigned from his position as vice president. After one last album for Motown, Love, Smokey (1990), Robinson departed the company. He released one record for SBK Records, Double Good Everything (1991), the same year he won a Soul Train Music Award for Career Achievement. Eight years later, he returned to Motown, which by then was a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and released Intimate (1999). The same year, Smokey Robinson received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since then, Smokey has continued to periodically perform and tour. In 2003, Robinson served as a guest judge for American Idol during “Billy Joel Week.” He issued a gospel LP, Food for the Spirit in 2004. A new album of pop standards from the early 20th century, Timeless Love, was released in June 2006. It was originally recorded with a jazz combo, but strings were added after the fact, giving the album more of a lush sound but removing much of the jazz feeling of the disc.
In 2004, Robinson’s company, SFGL Foods, launched a special brand of gumbo called “Smokey Robinson’s ‘The Soul is in the Bowl’ Gumbo”. Smokey Robinson is the spokesman of the Great American Smokeout, which takes place annually one week before Thanksgiving. It is a day when smokers quit smoking for at least a day.
Robinson has appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, the NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives, and on The Rachael Ray Show. He is scheduled to appear on Duets on Fox with Clint Black, Michael Bolton, Macy Gray, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, Brian McKnight, Aaron Neville, Randy Travis, and Dionne Warwick. David Foster will be a judge.
At its 138th Commencement Convocation in May 2006, Howard University conferred on Robinson the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa. In December 2006 Robinson was one of five Kennedy Center honorees, along with Dolly Parton (with whom Robinson had recorded a 1987 duet, “I Know You By Heart”), Zubin Mehta, Steven Spielberg and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The ceremony was held on December 3, 2006, and broadcast on CBS on December 26, 2006.
Robinson sang “The Tracks Of My Tears” as a cameo in the 2006 film Last Holiday. Also in late 2006, Robinson reunited with fellow Miracles Bobby Rogers and Pete Moore for the group’s first extended interview. This interview forms the basis of the Universal Music DVD release Smokey Robinson and The Miracles: The Definitive Performances, a video retrospective of the group’s music and career.
On February 11, 2007 Robinson sang “Tracks Of My Tears” at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, as part of a tribute to R&B music which included Motown labelmate Lionel Richie and current R&B star Chris Brown. Robinson performed on the finale of American Idol (season 6) on May 23, 2007. Robinson and the top six male contestants performed a medley of his hits.
In November 2007, Robinson toured Australia and performed with Australian band Human Nature on the set of local television programme Dancing With The Stars. On 22 November 2007, Robinson was interviewed by Bob Rogers (not to be confused with Bobby Rogers of The Miracles) on Sydney radio station 2CH.
On August 6, 2008, Robinson appeared at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater with English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello to record a television special combining on-stage interview and performance segments.
On March 25, 2009, Robinson appeared as a mentor on the popular television show American Idol. He coached the top 10 contestants of Season 8, who performed classic Motown songs. He also premiered the first single, “You’re the One For Me”, which features Joss Stone. The song also became available on iTunes and Amazon, March 26, 2009. The song is an updated version of the song “You’re The One For Me Bobby,” which he wrote and produced for The Marvelettes in 1968 for their album “Sophisticated Soul.” On March 20 2009, The Miracles were finally honored as a group with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Smokey was present with original Miracles members Bobby Rogers,Pete Moore ,ex-wife (and Bobby’s cousin) Claudette Robinson, and ,Gloria White, accepting for her husband , the late Ronnie White. Smokey’s replacement, 70’s Miracles lead singer, Billy Griffin was also honored. Controversially, original Miracle Marv Tarplin was not honored, against the wishes of his fellow Miracles,and the group’s fans, who felt that he should have also been there to share the honor.
On May 9, 2009, Smokey Robinson received an honorary doctorate degree and gave a commencement speech at Berklee College of Music’s commencement ceremony.
Smokey Robinson appeared in episode 22 with Daryl Hall on Live From Daryl’s House.
On August 25, 2009 Robinson released “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.” A self produced and written CD of mostly new material on his own RobSo label. The CD includes a cover of the Norah Jones hit ‘Don’t Know Why’. Special guests on the LP include India Arie, Carlos Santana, and Joss Stone. The Joss Stone duet “You’re the one for me” was performed on American Idol. The CD also contains a homage to early Motown and Michael Jackson with the hidden bonus track “I Want You Back.”
Smokey Robinson is today married to Frances Glandney. His ex-wife is Claudette Rogers with whom he had two children: Berry Robinson (named after Berry Gordy) and Tamla Robinson (named after the Motown imprint for which Robinson and The Miracles recorded).He also has a another son, Trey Robinson, from another relationship.*