Smokey Robinson
Singer, songwriter, record producer, record executive
Smokey Robinson
William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr. is an American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson was the founder and front man of the popular Motown vocal group The Miracles, for which he also served as the group's chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as The Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced a retirement from the stage to focus on his role as Motown's vice president.
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Smokey Robinson's personal information overview.
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News
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Our American Songbook: The Gershwins, Smokey And Gordy, And The Grammys
Huffington Post - 7 days
On this past Sunday, over 26 million viewers watched the live broadcast of the Grammy Awards Ceremony for 2016. On the Friday before the Grammys, a much smaller audience viewed the PBS airing of a pre-recorded presentation of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Smokey Robinson. Both of these events were musically spectacular with talent in abundance. What made them even more special are what they and the latest additions to our American songbook say about this nation and its people. The Grammys were a testimony to the diversity that is America, the music that Americans appreciate, and the critical role that music plays in shaping our culture today. The Gershwin Prize was a testimony to the evolution of this country and the role that music has played in that evolution. The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize is named after the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, whose parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants to the U.S. The Gershwins were a songwriting team o ...
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Huffington Post article
How Hit Pop Songs Became The Soundtrack Of American History
Huffington Post - 3 months
Learning the history of pop music in America is inherently a fun exercise.  These are songs, after all, that were made for easy recall, with hooks and rhythms that speak of universal feelings: love, loss, and good times. Marc Myers’ Anatomy of a Song — a spinoff of his Wall Street Journal column where he interviewed major musicians (think Debbie Harry, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards and Smokey Robinson) to learn the origin stories of some of the most-well known songs over five decades — reads like a dream karaoke playlist. Not a dud in sight.  Of the 45 songs featured in Myers’ book, I was alive for the release of just two: Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” Reading his book, this fact is irrelevant. The tunes and lyrics of “My Girl,” “London Calling,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and countless other timeless tunes swirled in my head as I read. Where did this knowledge come from, if not direct lived experience? How do these songs ...
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Huffington Post article
TV This Week, Dec. 4-10: 'Hairspray Live!' and more
LATimes - 3 months
  SUNDAY It’s orcas versus dolphins — advantage, orcas — in the new nature special “Killer Whales: The Mega Hunt.” 7 p.m. Animal Planet “A Very Soul Train Christmas” features vintage performance footage of such R&B favorites as Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan and Smokey Robinson. 7 p.m. BET Looks like...
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LATimes article
Adam White's Motown Book Is A Stunner
Huffington Post - 5 months
Adam White's stunning new coffee-table book Motown: The Sound of Young America (Thames & Hudson) is a 400-page non-stop heat wave of compelling narrative and enthralling images about a company whose musical brilliance and chart dominance was matched by its impact on American history. White, a former Billboard editor, has collaborated with Barney Ales -- the right-hand man of Motown founder Berry Gordy almost from the beginning -- to tell the inside story of how Gordy and his creative team of black writers, musicians and producers made the records while Barney and his mostly white team of "backroom believers" made sure those records got played and that the bills got paid. The Miracles during a show in the early 1960s Motown Records Archives. Courtesy of the EMI Archive Trust and Universal Music Group. Adam's encyclopedic knowledge of soul music and deep appreciation for the cultural/political meaning of Motown are as good as it gets. What makes Motown: The Sound of You ...
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Huffington Post article
The Fears Of A Clown
NPR - 7 months
"Don't let my glad expression give you the wrong impression," Smokey Robinson sings — but no one could mistake the face of Gags, the Green Bay Clown, for anything other than grim. What's his story?
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NPR article
Smokey Robinson honored with national pop music prize
Yahoo News - 8 months
WASHINGTON (AP) — Whether he was singing his own compositions or writing for other artists, Smokey Robinson was instrumental in shaping the Motown sound that changed American popular music in the 1960s. Now, his accomplishments have won him the pop music prize from the national library.
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Yahoo News article
Smokey Robinson adds star power to better US-Cuba ties
Yahoo News - 10 months
"King of Motown" Smokey Robinson added star power to the US drive to normalize relations with old Cold War enemy Cuba, joining Usher in an official delegation on a five-day visit to Havana. Singer-songwriter Dave Matthews was also part of the star-studded group. The delegation, organized by the White House, has been touring the communist island's capital to foster closer cultural ties with Cuba, a month after President Barack Obama made history by becoming the first US leader to visit in nearly 90 years.
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Yahoo News article
Talkin' Jaco with Metallica's Robert Trujillo, Chatting with Denise Donatelli, Plus the Nolatet, Svetlana & The Delancey Five and Rolla Olak Exclusives
Huffington Post - about 1 year
A Conversation with Robert Trujillo Mike Ragogna: Robert, was your first big musical inspiration Jaco Pastorius? Robert Trujillo: Yeah. I'm always pulling and really feeding off of my inspirations, I think most musicians do. But I try to incorporate a lot of that influence in what I do. So Jaco was definitely a huge inspiration back in 1979 when I saw him for the first time. It really did change my life and set me on an interesting creative path. Definitely. MR: When did you first see him perform live? RT: I saw him with Weather Report. I had started hearing about him in the late seventies and then in 1979 they came through town. They were playing at the Santa Monica civic auditorium, that was our local concert venue at the time. The great thing about Santa Monica civic auditorium was it was a place you could ride your bike to. In this case my dad dropped me and my friends off and we'd go see Ronnie James Dio or Jean-Luc Ponty or Weather Report or the Pretenders. There wa ...
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Huffington Post article
Smokey Robinson Opens Up About His 'Hell Of A Drug Trip'
Huffington Post - over 1 year
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Huffington Post article
Smokey Robinson Opens Up About His 'Hell Of A Drug Trip'
Huffington Post - over 1 year
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Huffington Post article
The Reason Smokey Robinson Wrote 'My Girl' Had Nothing To Do With A Girl
Huffington Post - over 1 year
(function(){var src_url="https://spshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?playList=519200261&height=&width=100&sid=577&origin=undefined&videoGroupID=154346&relatedNumOfResults=100&responsive=true&ratio=wide&align=center&relatedMode=2&relatedBottomHeight=60&companionPos=&hasCompanion=false&autoStart=true&colorPallet=%23FFEB00&videoControlDisplayColor=%23191919&shuffle=0&isAP=1&pgType=cmsPlugin&pgTypeId=addToPost-top&onVideoDataLoaded=track5min.DL&onTimeUpdate=track5min.TC&onVideoDataLoaded=HPTrack.Vid.DL&onTimeUpdate=HPTrack.Vid.TC";if (typeof(commercial_video) == "object") {src_url += "&siteSection="+commercial_video.site_and_category;if (commercial_video.package) {src_url += "&sponsorship="+commercial_video.package;}}var script = document.createElement("script");script.src = src_url;script.async = true;var placeholder = document.querySelector(".js-fivemin-script"); ...
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Huffington Post article
Q&A: Author David Maraniss on Detroit, Motown Music and How to Report a Book
Huffington Post - over 1 year
This article first appeared in The National Book Review The National interviewed Washington Post editor David Maraniss after he visited the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to talk about his new book, Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, a history of the city in the early 1960s, its golden age. The questions were posed by Madeleine Blais, a professor in the UMass-Amherst Journalism Department, who worked with Maraniss in the mid-1970s at the Trenton (N.J.) Times. Q: Please explain your reporting process. Many times in the book you have access to great quotes, say from a former cop or a young boy who was a truant on the day the Ford Rotunda burned down. How do you come across these people? A: The research part of my work is based on what I call the four legs of a table. The first leg is go there, wherever there is. For my book on Vince Lombardi, the great Green Bay Packers football coach (When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi), that meant turning to my wi ...
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Huffington Post article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Smokey Robinson
    FORTIES
  • 2016
    In 2016 Robinson will be awarded the Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to popular music.
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  • 2015
    In 2015, he was given a BET Lifetime Achievement Award.
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  • 2012
    He was also finally inducted with the rest of the original Miracles, Bobby Rogers, Pete Moore, Ronnie White, and Claudette Robinson, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, 25 years after Robinson's controversial solo induction in 1987.
    More Details Hide Details He was also awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. In 2009, Smokey Robinson received an honorary doctorate degree along with Linda Ronstadt and gave a commencement speech at Berklee College of Music's commencement ceremony.
    In 2012, Robinson explained:
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    Though Robinson was not listed as an inductee, he was due to induct his former group at the ceremony in April 2012.
    More Details Hide Details The same year he was inducted, the UK group ABC released a tribute song, "When Smokey Sings".
  • 2010
    He subsequently released "Now And Then" in 2010, which peaked at number 131.
    More Details Hide Details Smokey & Friends was released in mid-August 2014. It was an album of duets, including ones with Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. It reached number 12 on the Billboard album chart.
  • THIRTIES
  • 2009
    In 2009, he issued the album, Time Flies When You're Having Fun on his own label, Robso Records.
    More Details Hide Details It reached number 59 on the Billboard album chart, his highest showing since One Heartbeat.
  • 2006
    Two years later, Robinson released the standards album, Timeless Love, in 2006 on Universal Records.
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  • 2004
    In 2004 Robinson sang the main title theme song "Colorful World" to the American children's animated series ToddWorld for Discovery Kids, TLC and Mike Young Productions.
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  • 2003
    In 2003, he once again split ties with Motown, releasing the gospel album, Food for the Soul on Liquid 8 Records in 2004.
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  • 2002
    Smokey is currently married to Frances Robinson, whose maiden name is Gladney. They were married in May 2002.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1999
    Robinson remained virtually quiet during the nineties (though he would make a notable cameo appearance in The Temptations 1998 miniseries), making a brief comeback in 1999 when he re-signed with Motown and issued the album, Intimate, which included the song "Easy to Love".
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  • 1990
    Following the release of the album, Love Smokey, in 1990, Robinson left Motown for a deal with SBK Records in 1991.
    More Details Hide Details However, the album, Double Good Everything failed to chart.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1988
    Smokey Robinson's single "Just to See Her"" from the One Heartbeat album was awarded the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
    More Details Hide Details This was Robinson's first Grammy Award. One year later, in 1989, he was inducted to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. In 1993, Robinson was awarded a medal at the National Medal of Arts. Two years before, he won the Heritage Award at the Soul Train Music Awards. 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, Zubin Mehta, Steven Spielberg and Andrew Lloyd Webber. 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, (Bobby's cousin) Claudette Rogers, and Gloria White, accepting for her husband, the late Ronnie White, whose daughter Pamela and granddaughter Maya were there representing him as well. Smokey's replacement, 1970s 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. However, later, Tarplin did receive his star.
    After Motown was sold off to MCA in 1988, Robinson relinquished his position as vice president.
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    They were aided by hugely popular music videos. "Just to See Her" won Robinson his first Grammy Award in 1988.
    More Details Hide Details The album became one of his most successful ever, selling over 900,000 copies in the United States alone. In the same year Robinson released One Heartbeat, he was inducted as a solo artist to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, later igniting controversy as the committee had inducted only Robinson and not members of his group, the Miracles, which Robinson was personally offended by. In 2012, however, the committee rectified the mistake announcing that the group would be inducted on their own merit.
  • 1987
    In 1987, following a period of personal and professional issues, Robinson made a comeback with the album, One Heartbeat and the singles, "Just to See Her" and "One Heartbeat", which were Top 10 hits on Billboards Pop, Soul, and Adult Contemporary charts.
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  • 1986
    After Robinson admitted this, he filed for legal separation and, later, divorce, which was granted in 1986.
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  • 1983
    In 1983, Robinson teamed up with fellow Motown label mate Rick James recording the R&B ballad, "Ebony Eyes".
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  • 1981
    In 1981, Robinson topped the charts again with another sensual ballad, "Being with You", which was another number one hit in Cash Box and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
    More Details Hide Details It also hit number one in the United Kingdom, becoming his most successful single to date. The Gold-plus parent album sparked a partnership with George Tobin and with Tobin, Robinson released his next several Motown albums, Yes It's You Lady, which produced the hits, "Tell Me Tomorrow", "Touch the Sky" and "Essar".
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1975
    Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975.
    More Details Hide Details The album launched three singles – the number-one R&B hit "Baby That's Backatcha", "The Agony & The Ecstasy" and "Quiet Storm". However, Robinson's solo career suffered from his work as Motown's vice president, and his own music took the backseat. As a result, several albums including Smokey's Family Robinson, Deep in My Soul, Love Breeze and Smokin, saw poor promotion and received bad reviews. At this point Robinson relied on other writers and producers to help him with his albums. He depended in particular on his best friend and songwriter Richard Dickson with help in his career. Following these albums, Robinson got out of a writer's block after his close collaborator Marv Tarplin, who joined him on the road in 1973 after Robinson left the Miracles, presented him a tune he had composed on his guitar. Robinson later wrote the lyrics that became his first top ten Pop single, "Cruisin'". The song hit number one in Cash Box and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became his first solo number one in New Zealand. Robinson would follow a similar approach with his next album, Warm Thoughts, which produced another top 40 hit, "Let Me Be the Clock", though it didn't repeat the success of "Cruisin'".
  • 1974
    The Robinsons had separated once before, in 1974, and Robinson conducted an extramarital affair that became the concept of the song, "The Agony & The Ecstasy", later featured on A Quiet Storm.
    More Details Hide Details Robinson has not eaten red meat since 1972. He practices Transcendental Meditation. Robinson is notable for having golden green eyes, which he attributes to having been passed down from his French great-grandmother.
    In 1974, Robinson's second album, Pure Smokey, was released but failed to produce hits.
    More Details Hide Details Robinson struggled to compete with his former collaborators Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks, as all three had multiple hit singles during this period. Former Beatle George Harrison featured the track "Pure Smokey" on his 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3 as a tribute to Robinson. (Harrison's fellow Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney were also fans of Robinson's songwriting and the group covered "You Really Gotta Hold on Me" on their second UK album With the Beatles.)
  • 1973
    After a year of retirement, Robinson announced his comeback with the release of the eponymous Smokey album, in 1973.
    More Details Hide Details The album included the Miracles tribute song, "Sweet Harmony" and the hit ballad "Baby Come Close".
  • 1972
    Robinson's last performance with the group was in July 1972 in Washington, D.C.
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    However, the success of the group's "Tears of a Clown" made Robinson stay with the group until 1972.
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  • 1969
    By 1969, Robinson wanted to retire from touring to focus on raising his two children with his wife Claudette and on his duties as Motown's vice president, a job he had taken on by the mid-1960s after Esther Gordy Edwards had left the position.
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  • OTHER
  • 1962
    Between 1962 and 1966, Robinson was also one of the major songwriters and producers for Motown, penning several hit singles such as "Two Lovers", "The One Who Really Loves You", "You Beat Me to the Punch" and "My Guy" for Mary Wells; "The Way You Do The Things You Do", "My Girl", "Since I Lost My Baby" and "Get Ready" for the Temptations; "When I'm Gone" and "Operator" for Brenda Holloway; "Don't Mess With Bill", "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" and "My Baby Must Be a Magician" for the Marvelettes; and "I'll Be Doggone" and "Ain't That Peculiar" for Marvin Gaye.
    More Details Hide Details After the arrival of Holland–Dozier–Holland and the team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, he was eclipsed as a top writer and producer for the label, and other Motown artists such as Gaye and Stevie Wonder began to compose more original material. Later in his career, Robinson wrote lyrics and music for the Contours such as "First I Look at the Purse", as well as the Four Tops' "Still Water" and The Supremes' "Floy Joy".
  • 1960
    Between 1960 and 1970, Robinson would produce 26 top forty hits with the Miracles as lead singer, chief songwriter and producer, including several top ten hits such as "You've Really Got a Hold on Me", "Mickey's Monkey", "I Second That Emotion", "Baby Baby Don't Cry" and the group's only number-one hit during their Robinson years, "The Tears of a Clown".
    More Details Hide Details Other notable hits such as "Ooo Baby Baby", "Going to a Go-Go", "The Tracks of My Tears", "(Come Round Here) I'm The One You Need", "The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage" and "More Love" peaked in the top twenty. In 1965, the Miracles were the first Motown group to change their name when they released their 1965 album Going to a Go-Go as Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
  • 1959
    Robinson married his fellow Miracles member Claudette Rogers in 1959.
    More Details Hide Details The couple had two children, son Berry Robinson (b. 1968), named after Motown's first label founder Berry Gordy, and daughter Tamla Robinson (b. 1969), named after the original "Tamla" label set up by Gordy that would eventually become Motown. Robinson has another son, Trey (b. 1984), with another woman, during his marriage to Claudette.
    During this time, Robinson attended college and started classes in January 1959, studying electrical engineering.
    More Details Hide Details Robinson dropped out after only two months following the Miracles' release of their first record. Gordy formed Tamla Records which was later reincorporated as Motown. The Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the label. In point of fact, they had actually been with Gordy since before the formation of Motown Records. In late 1960, the group recorded their first hit single, "Shop Around", which became Motown's first million-selling hit record.
  • 1957
    In August 1957, Robinson and the Miracles met songwriter Berry Gordy after a failed audition for Brunswick Records.
    More Details Hide Details At that time during the audition, Robinson had brought along with him a "Big 10" notebook with 100 songs he wrote while in high school. Gordy was impressed with Robinson's vocals and even more impressed with Robinson's ambitious songwriting. With his help, the Miracles released their first single, "Got a Job", an answer song to the Silhouettes' hit single "Get a Job" on End Records. It was the beginning of a long and successful collaboration.
  • 1955
    In 1955, he formed the first lineup of the Five Chimes with childhood friend Ronald White and classmate Pete Moore.
    More Details Hide Details Two years later, in 1957, they were renamed the Matadors and included Bobby Rogers. Another member, Emerson Rogers, was replaced by Bobby's cousin Claudette Rogers. The group's guitarist, Marv Tarplin, joined them sometime in 1958. The Matadors began touring Detroit venues around this time. They later changed their name to the Miracles.
    Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as the Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced a retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown's vice president.
    More Details Hide Details However, Robinson returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year, later scoring Top 10 solo hits such as "Cruisin'" (1979), "Being With You" (1981) and "Just to See Her" (1987). Following the sale of Motown Records in 1988, Robinson left the company in 1990. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
  • 1940
    Born on February 19, 1940.
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Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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