Smokey Robinson, born William Robinson, February 19, 1940 in Detroit, Michigan.
When most people think about Smokey Robinson they think about smooth, romantic tunes you want to slip on the stereo after a candlelit dinner. His style was always perfect Rhythm and Blues magic, perfect for the rolling soft rock or oldies radio station format. Is that all there is to Smokey Robinson?
A singer and songwriter whose best work is capable of melting butter with nothing but their sound, Smokey Robinson was a miracle even without his band, The Miracles. He got his start writing songs, and after meeting Motown guru Berry Gordy in the late 1950s he was on a roll. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles provided Motown with many of its early hits, and Smokey was an important contributor as a songwriter and producer to other Motown acts, most notably The Temptations.
Late 1960 saw the first national attention for Smokey's band. "Shop Around" hit the charts, peaked at #2, and Smokey was on his way. His name would then forever be woven into the fabric of American music.
Smokey Robinson would become part of the background mystique after releasing "Going to a Go-Go," and song that would spend years being covered by whatever band needed a good live song in concert. Soon after the release of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" he would gain the affection of Bob Dylan, who would refer to Robinson as "America's greatest living poet," a phrase most frequently used to describe the immortal Dylan himself. Smokey wasn't just writing songs, he was exhibiting a talent with weaving words that most of the people who listened to his work barely noticed. His elegance was always understated, his ego lying back like a crouching tiger, knowing full well that he could make it happen just by being Smokey Robinson.
Consistency was the forte of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Throughout the 1960s they were never the top act on Motown, but they outlasted and outperformed the rest of the label's acts over the course of time. This was not a band who was going to burn out and fade away. They had staying power, and Smokey Robinson had the kind of focus that demanded perfection rather than explosiveness.
Anyone with as much as a glass of talent and a shot of good luck can become a one hit wonder. Smokey Robinson was well aware of that, and well aware of the fact that the entertainment industry can grind the starry-eyed into oblivion. He was not interested in that, and The Miracles kept their legacy alive by releasing songs like "I Second That Emotion," "The Tracks of My Tears" and "The Tears of a Clown." Smokey Robinson did not hold himself to his own band's success, and was responsible for writing Mary Wells' #1 hit "My Guy" and The Temptations #1 hit "My Girl" (oddly enough, it has rarely been noted that there is some kind of humor in that fact).
Smokey Robinson decided in 1972
to part ways with The Miracles and released a string of moderately successful solo
albums, which helped redefine him as a soulful, contemporary sounding romantic ballad
singer. He continues to work on his sound and his style, and to this day he is still recording
and writing songs.
Research on dates and song titles and chart positions done at allmusic.com
but I had to listen to the music to get the right groove on.
So should you, well, it would be nice if you did.