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Robinson, Smokey 1940–

Smokey Robinson 1940

Singer, songwriter, record producer

At a Glance

Became a Sought-After Songwriter

Selected writings

Selected compositions

Selected discography

Sources

Smokey Robinson, the poet laureate of soul music, has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for more than three decades. As the lead singer of the Miracles, Robinson, who moved to SBK Records later in his career, helped to put Detroit and its Motown Records on the music map; his solo performances have netted Grammy Awards and praise from pundits who usually shun the pop genre. People contributor Gail Buchalter labeled Robinson one of the smoothest tenors in soul music, a romantic idol whose 60 million-plus in record sales helped turn Motown into the largest black-owned corporation in the world.

According to Jay Cocks in Time, Robinson has written, produced, and performed some of the most enduring rhythm and blues [songs] ever made. The church kept easy company with the street corner in his rich melodies, and his lyrics had a shimmering, reflective grace that, at his pleasure, could challenge or seduce. With the Miracles, Smokey helped make a kind of soul music that balanced ghetto pride and middle-class ambition. Some of the groups best tunes stayed true to the R & B roots even as they beckoned, and found, a larger pop audience. In Rolling Stone, Steve Pond concluded that Robinson has written some 4000 songs and recorded hundreds that have made him a true poet of the soul and a voice of the soul, too.

William Smokey Joe Robinson, Jr., not only rose from obscurity, he brought along a number of other now-famous black recording stars when he began to find success. He was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he recalled in People, you were either in a [music] group or a gang or both. Young Smokey grew up listening to his mothers records, including the works of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. These black artists, he commented in Rolling Stone, were the first inspirational thing I had. When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him in, raising him along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles

At a Glance

Born William Robinson, Jr., February 19, 1940, in Detroit, Ml; married Claudette Rogers (a singer), November 7, 1959 (divorced): children; Berry William, Tamla Claudette.

Singer and songwriter, 1954. Founder of group the Matadors, 1954; groups name changed to the Miracles, 1957; performed with the Miracles, 1957-72; solo performer, backed by group Quiet Storm, 1972. Cofounder, with Berry Gordy, Jr., of Tamla record label, 1959; vice-president of Motown Records, 1972-91; has made numerous television appearances, including a special in 1971; appeared on Broadway in An Evening With Smokey Robinson, 1985.

Selected awards: Grammy Award nomination for best rhythm and blues song, 1979, for Cruisin; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, both 1986; Grammy Award for best male rhythm and blues vocal performance, 1987, for Just to See Her lifetime achievement award, Motor City Music Awards, 1992.

Addresses: Home Los Angeles, CA. Agent Michael Roshkind, 6255 Sunset Blvd., 18th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Record company SBK Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.

three years later to accommodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959. At first the members of the Miracleswho were each paid five dollars per week by their agent, Berry Gordyfound the music business difficult. For a while, Claudette Robinson related in Essence,we lived basically in one bedroom. But we didnt stay in that house very long. Fortunately, the music started to happen.

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling music producer on a shoestring budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce the Miracless singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, Got a Joban answer to The Silhouettess number one hit Get a Jobhit Number 93 on the nationwide Billboard Top 100 chart. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would attain in 1960. Late in that year they released an upbeat single, Shop Around, that became a chart-topping million-seller. The Miracles subsequently became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.

Became a Sought-After Songwriter

Robinson and the Miracles were Gordys first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company gained prestige. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well. He explained the Motown philosophy in Rolling Stone: We set out to make music for people of all races and nationalities. Not to make black musicwe just wanted to make good music that would be acceptable in all circles. All we were doing, man, was just putting good songs on good tracks, songs that anybody could relate to. We had good, solid songs that would fit your particular life situation if you were white or Oriental or Chicano or whatever you happened to be. And that made a world of difference.

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown sound competed with the music of the British invasion for popularity among the young. Robinson and the Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than six gold records containing such hits as The Tracks of My Tears, Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, I Second That Emotion, and Ooo Baby Baby. Still, Robinson was on the verge of quitting the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when a Miracles single, The Tears of a Clown, became a Number One hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson noted in Rolling Stone that The Tears of a Clown became the biggest record we ever had. It catapulted us into another financial echelon as far as what we made on dates, and I felt that the band was entitled to reap the benefits. The Miracles, a model group in terms of road behavior, endured until 1972, when Robinson quit.

For a time after leaving the Miracles, Robinson concentrated on his business duties as vice-president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. His solo albums are, on the whole, more reflective and mellow than his work with the Miracles. All of them highlight the singers particular talentthe creation and performance of meaningful love songs at a time when many erstwhile romantics have become jaded cynics. Stephen Holden summed up the reason for the immense popularity of Robinsons music in Rolling Stone: Smokey Robinson is that rare pop singer whose rhapsodic lyricism hasnt diminished with approaching middle age. Indeed, time has added a metaphysical depth to his art. Smokey Robinsons faith in the redemptive power of erotic love continues unabated. In Robinsons musical world, sexual happiness isnt the product of spiritual equilibrium but its source. Dont think, however, that Robinsons songs arent filled with sex. They are. But in this mans art, sex isnt a fast roll in the hay, its sweet manna shared during a leisurely stroll into paradise. Smokey Robinson creates that paradise every time he opens his mouth to sing.

Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Robinsons records of the late 1980s, when he was well into his third decade in the music business, continued to garner popularity and the approval of critics. A People reviewer found that on Smoke Signals of 1986, for example, the singer remains a uniquely resilient performer, and 1987s One Heartbeat was termed another winning package of sharp, sophisticated soul in Rolling Stone. Robinson hits like Cruisin, Just to See Hera Grammy Award winnerand Being With You became both rhythm-and-blues and pop hits and were rendered in a voice Essence contributor Jack Slater hailed as a hypnotic, airy aphrodisiac that puts tens of thousands in the mood for love. Coupled with his success with the Miracles and as a prolific Motown songwriter, Robinsons solo achievements in the music industry led to his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was named a Grammy Living Legend.

Coping with such enormous fame has not always been easy for Robinson. He chronicles his personal struggles in his 1989 collaboration with David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life. Musician contributor Jon Young remarked that the autobiography documents everything from [Robinsons] family history and the early days of the Miracles to his extramarital affairs and, most striking, a graphic account of two years in thrall to cocaine in the mid-80s. When asked why he chose to provide such candid details about his drug addiction, Robinson responded to Young, I wrote it because it was Gods will. I was saved from drugs in 1986 when my pastor prayed for me. I never went to rehab or to a doctor. It was a miracle healing from God, so that I could carry the message about the perils of drugs. At the time I was saved, I was already dead. You are now speaking to Lazarus.

Left Motown for SBK Records

With the onset of the 1990s, Robinsons contract with Motown Records expired, and after a long and productive career with the record company, he moved to SBK Records. According to Gary Graff of the Detroit Free Press, the singer said simply, My contract with Motown was up, and I was just out of there. He also pointed to the sale of Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in 1988 as one of the reasons for his departure. After we sold the company, he continued to Graff, it was never really quite the same for me. With SBK Records, Robinson released a well-received LP he coproduced and recorded in less than six weeks, 1991s Double Good Everything. It feels like a new day or something, man, he divulged to Graff. This is the first thing Ive ever done outside of Motown; thats a big deal to me. I feel like a new artist, almost.

Also in 1991, Robinson ventured into previously unchartered areas of the music world, considering an album of country-western tunes and penning the score for a Broadway musical titled Hoops, which presents the history of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Ive written 22 pieces so far, Robinson told Young in February of 1992. I want this to be like [the Broadway musical] South Pacific and produce several hits. The title track is a funk thing that I can envision being a halftime song for the NBA [National Basketball Association]. Though he reached the ripe age of 50 in 1990, Robinson plans to continue his often hectic schedule of performing, composing, and recording. If the world lasts until the twenty-second century, the enduring singer-songwriter declared to Young, I hope theyre still playing my music.

Selected writings

(With David Ritz) Smokey: Inside My Life (autobiography), McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Selected compositions

Has written and co-written numerous songs, 1954, including Aint That Peculiar?, Dont Mess With Bill, Going to a Go Go, I Second That Emotion, Its Growing, More Love, My Girl, The Way You Do the Things You Do, The Tracks of My Tears, You Beat Me to the Punch, Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, Here I Am Baby, Ill Be Doggone, The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage, Ooo Baby Baby, Two Lovers, Cruisin, First Look at the Purse, and The Tears of a Clown.

Selected discography

Singles; with the Miracles; released by Tamla

Got a Job, 1958.

Shop Around, 1960.

Whats So Good About Goodbye?, 1962.

Ill Try Something New, 1962.

Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, 1962.

Mickeys Monkey, 1963.

Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying, 1963.

Ooo Baby Baby, 1965.

The Tracks of My Tears, 1965.

Going to a Go Go, 1966.

The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage, 1967.

More Love, 1967.

Second That Emotion, 1967.

The Tears of a Clown, 1970.

Solo singles

Cruisin, 1979.

Just to See Her, 1987.

Being with You.

Albums; with the Miracles

Hi, Were the Miracles, Motown, 1961.

Shop Around, Motown, 1962.

Doin Mickeys Monkey, Motown, 1963, reissue, 1989.

The Fabulous Miracles, Motown, 1964.

The Miracles on Stage, Motown, 1964.

Going to a Go Go, Motown, 1964, reissue, 1989.

The Miracles From the Beginning, Motown, 1965.

Away We a Go Go, Motown, 1965, reissue, 1989.

Make It Happen, Motown, 1968.

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Motown, 1968, reissue, 1987.

The Miracles Live, Motown, 1969.

Special Occasion, Motown, 1969.

Time Out for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Motown, 1970, reissue, 1989.

Four in Blue, Motown, 1970.

What Love Has Joined Together, Motown, 1970, reissue, 1990.

Smokey and the Miracles, Motown, 1971.

1957-1972, Motown, 1973.

Anthology, Motown, 1974.

The Miracles, CBS, 1977.

Compact Command Performance, Motown.

Compact Command Performance, Vol. 2, Motown, 1986.

Going to a Go Go/The Tears of a Clown, Tamla, 1986.

Christmas With the Miracles, Motown, 1987.

The Season for Miracles (reissue), Motown, 1991.

(With others) Great Songs & Performances That Inspired the Motown 25th Anniversary TV Show, Motown.

The Tears of a Clown, Motown.

I Like It Like That, Motown.

Cookin With the Miracles, Motown.

One Dozen Roses, Motown.

Flying High Together, Motown.

Greatest Hits From the Beginning, Motown.

(With others) Motown Legends, Motown.

Solo albums

Renaissance, Motown, 1973.

Smokey, Motown, 1973.

Pure Smokey, Motown, 1974, reissue, 1982.

Do It, Baby, Motown, 1974.

A Quiet Storm, Motown, 1974, reissue, 1989.

City of Angels, Motown, 1974.

Love Machine, Motown, 1975.

Smokeys Family Robinson, Motown, 1975.

Power of the Music, Motown, 1977.

Deep in My Soul, Motown, 1977.

Bag Time (motion picture soundtrack), Motown, 1977.

Love Crazy, CBS, 1977

Smokeys World, Motown, 1978.

Love Breeze, Motown, 1978.

Smokin, Motown, 1978.

Where Theres Smoke, Motown, 1979, reissue, 1989.

Warm Thoughts, Motown, 1980.

Being With You, Motown, 1981.

Yes Its You, Lady, Motown, 1981.

Touch the Sky, Motown, 1983.

Great Songs and Performances, Motown, 1983.

Essar, Motown, 1984.

Smoke Signals, Tamla, 1986.

One Heartbeat, Motown, 1987.

Blame It on Love and All the Great Hits, Motown, 1990.

Love, Smokey, Motown, 1990.

Double Good Everything, SBK, 1991.

Sources

Books

Given, Dave, The Dave Given Rock n Roll Stars Handbook, Exposition Press, 1980.

Robinson, Smokey, and David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Periodicals

Detroit News, October 20, 1991.

Down Beat, June 1983.

Ebony, October 1971; October 1982; March 1989; May 1989.

Essence, February 1982.

High Fidelity, June 1980; May 1981; May 1982; July 1982; April 1986.

Jet, January 31, 1980; July 9, 1981; August 3, 1987; March 13, 1989; November 13, 1989; December 18, 1989; April 8, 1991; November 11, 1991.

Musician, February 1992.

New Republic, July 15, 1991.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, March 10,1980; April 28,1980; April 12,1982; May 16, 1983; August 13, 1984; May 20, 1985; December 16, 1985; March 10, 1986; May 18, 1987; March 13, 1989; April 3, 1989.

Playboy, July 1985; June 1986.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1989.

Rolling Stone, April 16, 1981; September 17, 1981; February 12, 1987; April 23, 1987; December 17, 1987; February 9, 1989.

Stereo Review, July 1980; May 1982; January 1984; November 1986.

Variety, May 22,1985; October 15,1986; December 23, 1987; March 1, 1989.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Robinson, Smokey

Smokey Robinson

Singer, songwriter, record producer

Smokey Robinson, the "poet laureate of soul music," has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for more than four decades. As the lead singer of the Miracles, Robinson helped to put Detroit and its Motown Records on the music map; his solo performances have netted Grammy Awards and praise from pundits who usually shun the pop genre. People contributor Gail Buchalter labeled Robinson "one of the smoothest tenors in soul music," a romantic idol whose 60 million-plus in record sales "helped turn Motown into the largest black-owned corporation in the world."

According to Jay Cocks in Time, Robinson has written, produced, and performed "some of the most enduring rhythm and blues [songs] ever made. The church kept easy company with the street corner in his rich melodies, and his lyrics had a shimmering, reflective grace that, at his pleasure, could challenge or seduce. With the Miracles, Smokey helped make a kind of soul music that balanced ghetto pride and middle-class ambition. Some of the group's best tunes ... stayed true to the R&B roots even as they beckoned, and found, a larger pop audience." In Rolling Stone, Steve Pond concluded that Robinson has written "some 4000 songs and recorded hundreds that have made him a true poet of the soul and a voice of the soul, too."

William "Smokey Joe" Robinson, Jr., not only rose from obscurity, he brought along a number of other now-famous black recording stars when he began to find success. He was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he recalled in People, "you were either in a [music] group or a gang or both." Young Smokey grew up listening to his mother's records, including the works of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. These black artists, he commented in Rolling Stone, were "the first inspirational thing I had." When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him in, raising him along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

The Miracles of Motown

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles three years later to accommodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959. At first the members of the Miracles—who were each paid five dollars per week by their agent, Berry Gordy—found the music business difficult. "For a while," Claudette Robinson related in Essence, "we lived basically in one bedroom. But we didn't stay in that house very long. Fortunately, the music started to happen."

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling music producer on a shoestring budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce the Miracles's singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, "Got a Job"—an answer to The Silhouettes's number one hit "Get a Job"—hit number 93 on the nationwide Billboard top 100 chart. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would attain in 1960. Late in that year they released an upbeat single, "Shop Around," that became a chart-topping million-seller. The Miracles subsequently became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.

Robinson and the Miracles were Gordy's first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company gained prestige. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well. He explained the Motown philosophy in Rolling Stone: "We set out to ... make music for people of all races and nationalities. Not to make black music—we just wanted to make good music that would be acceptable in all circles.... All we were doing, man, was just putting good songs on good tracks, songs that anybody could relate to.... We had good, solid songs that would fit your particular life situation if you were white or Oriental or Chicano or whatever you happened to be. And that made a world of difference."

"Tears" Was a Number One Hit

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown sound competed with the music of the British invasion for popularity among the young. Robinson and the Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than six gold records containing such hits as "The Tracks of My Tears," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "I Second That Emotion," and "Ooo Baby Baby." Still, Robinson was on the verge of quitting the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when a Miracles single, "The Tears of a Clown," became a number one hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson noted in Rolling Stone that "The Tears of a Clown" became "the biggest record we ever had. It catapulted us into another financial echelon as far as what we made on dates, and I felt that the band was entitled to reap the benefits." The Miracles, a model group in terms of road behavior, endured until 1972, when Robinson quit.

For a time after leaving the Miracles, Robinson concentrated on his business duties as vice-president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. His solo albums are, on the whole, more reflective and mellow than his work with the Miracles. All of them highlight the singer's particular talent—the creation and performance of meaningful love songs at a time when many erstwhile romantics have become jaded cynics.

For the Record …

Born William Robinson, Jr. on February 19, 1940, in Detroit, MI; married Claudette Rogers (a singer), November 7, 1959 (divorced); married Frances Gladney, 2002; children: Berry William, Tamla Claudette.

Singer and songwriter, 1954–. Founder of group the Matadors, 1954; group's name changed to the Miracles, 1957; performed with the Miracles, 1957-72; solo performer, backed by group Quiet Storm, 1972–. Cofounder, with Berry Gordy, Jr., of Tamla record label, 1959; vice-president of Motown Records, 1972-91; marketed a line of foods, circa 2000; has made numerous television appearances, including a special in 1971; appeared on Broadway in An Evening With SmokeyRobinson, 1985.

Awards: Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1987; Grammy Award, Best Male Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance for "Just to See Her," 1987; Grammy Living Legend Award, 1990; inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1990; Soul Train Heritage Award, 1991; Motor City Music Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1992; the Miracles inducted into Vocal Group Hall of Fame, 2001; President's National Medal of Arts Award, 2003; NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award.

Addresses: Booking Agent—William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.wma.com. Record company— Motown Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, phone: (310) 865-5000, website: http://www.motown.com. Website—Smokey Robinson Official Website: http://www.smokeyrobinson.net.

Robinson's records of the late 1980s, when he was well into his third decade in the music business, continued to garner popularity and the approval of critics. A People reviewer found that on Smoke Signals of 1986, for example, the singer "remains a uniquely resilient performer," and 1987's One Heartbeat was termed "another winning package of sharp, sophisticated soul" in Rolling Stone. Robinson hits like "Cruisin'," "Just to See Her"—a Grammy Award winner—and "Being With You" became both R&B and pop hits and were rendered in a voice Essence contributor Jack Slater hailed as "a hypnotic, airy aphrodisiac that puts tens of thousands in the mood for love." Coupled with his success with the Miracles and as a prolific Motown songwriter, Robinson's solo achievements in the music industry led to his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was named a Grammy Living Legend.

Coping with such enormous fame has not always been easy for Robinson. He chronicles his personal struggles in his 1989 collaboration with David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life. Musician contributor Jon Young remarked that the autobiography "documents everything from [Robinson's] family history and the early days of the Miracles to his extramarital affairs and, most striking, a graphic account of two years in thrall to cocaine in the mid-'80s." When asked why he chose to provide such candid details about his drug addiction, Robinson responded to Young, "I wrote it because it was God's will.... I was saved from drugs in 1986 when my pastor prayed for me. I never went to rehab or to a doctor. It was a miracle healing from God, so that I could carry the message about the perils of drugs. At the time I was saved, I was already dead. You are now speaking to Lazarus."

With the onset of the 1990s, Robinson's contract with Motown Records expired, and after a long and productive career with the record company, he moved to SBK Records. According to Gary Graff of the Detroit Free Press, the singer said simply, "My contract with Motown was up, and I was just out of there." He also pointed to the sale of Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in 1988 as one of the reasons for his departure. "After we sold the company," he continued to Graff, "it was never really quite the same for me." With SBK Records, Robinson released a well-received LP he coproduced and recorded in less than six weeks, 1991's Double Good Everything. "It feels like a new day or something, man," he divulged to Graff. "This is the first thing I've ever done outside of Motown; that's a big deal to me.... I feel like a new artist, almost."

Also in 1991, Robinson ventured into previously uncharted areas of the music world, considering an album of country-western tunes and penning the score for a Broadway musical titled Hoops, which presents the history of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. "I've written 22 pieces so far," Robinson told Young in February of 1992. "I want this to be like [the Broadway musical] South Pacific and produce several hits. The title track is a funk thing that I can envision being a halftime song for the NBA [National Basketball Association]."

Returned to Motown

In 1999, Robinson returned to Motown and released Intimate, and in 2004, he released Food for the Spirit, a collection of spiritual tunes that reflect his faith. He had begun writing the songs over several years, and originally planned to pass them on to friends who were gospel performers. However, he eventually realized that he wanted to perform the songs. "My spiritual self is very important to me," he told Aldore Collier in Ebony. "And I'm trying my best to develop that part of me."

Robinson has continued to tour and perform, and has also regularly visited schools, rehabilitation facilities, gang meetings, and juvenile detention centers to share his story of drug addiction and redemption. He has also continued to expand his line of food products, Smokey Robinson Foods; they are available at supermarkets in California, Texas, and Chicago. The idea for the food line came from Robinson's friend, evangelist Leon Isaac Kennedy; the first product was a seafood gumbo called "The Soul is in the Bowl." Seafood appealed to Robinson because he does not eat red meat. Robinson told James Ragland in the Dallas Morning News that part of the proceeds from the foods will go toward training forums and seminars to teach young minority people how to become entrepreneurs.

In May of 2002, Robinson married his second wife, Frances Gladney, an interior designer. They had known each other as friends for more than 25 years before getting married. In addition to enjoying married life, Robinson has continued to enjoy his three children and eight grandchildren. He told Regina R. Robertson in the America's Intelligence Wire, "I don't have any children anymore, I have all adults now. Being a grandparent is probably the most wonderful part of parenthood because grandbabies are like your kids, plus."

Robinson plans to continue his often hectic schedule of performing, composing, and recording. "If the world lasts until the twenty-second century," the enduring singer-songwriter declared to Young, "I hope they're still playing my music."

Selected discography

Solo albums

Renaissance, Motown, 1973.

Smokey, Motown, 1973.

Pure Smokey, Motown, 1974, reissued, 1982.

Do It, Baby, Motown, 1974.

A Quiet Storm, Motown, 1974, reissued, 1989.

City of Angels, Motown, 1974.

Love Machine, Motown, 1975.

Smokey's Family Robinson, Motown, 1975.

Power of the Music, Motown, 1977.

Deep in My Soul, Motown, 1977.

Bag Time (soundtrack), Motown, 1977.

Love Crazy, CBS, 1977.

Smokey's World, Motown, 1978.

Love Breeze, Motown, 1978.

Smokin', Motown, 1978.

Where There's Smoke, Motown, 1979, reissued, 1989.

Warm Thoughts, Motown, 1980.

Being With You, Motown, 1981.

Yes It's You, Lady, Motown, 1981.

Touch the Sky, Motown, 1983.

Great Songs and Performances, Motown, 1983.

Essar, Motown, 1984.

Smoke Signals, Tamla, 1986.

One Heartbeat, Motown, 1987.

Blame It on Love and All the Great Hits, Motown, 1990.

Love, Smokey, Motown, 1990.

Double Good Everything, SBK, 1991.

Intimate, Motown, 1999.

Our Very Best Christmas, Motown, 1999.

Food for the Soul, Motown, 2004.

Singles with The Miracles

"Got a Job," Tamla, 1958.

"Shop Around," Tamla, 1960.

"What's So Good About Goodbye?," Tamla, 1962.

"I'll Try Something New," Tamla, 1962.

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me," Tamla, 1962.

"Mickey's Monkey," Tamla, 1963.

"Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying," Tamla, 1963.

"Ooo Baby Baby," Tamla, 1965.

"The Tracks of My Tears," Tamla, 1965.

"Going to a Go Go," Tamla, 1966.

"The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage," Tamla, 1967.

"More Love," Tamla, 1967.

"Second That Emotion," Tamla, 1967.

"The Tears of a Clown," Tamla, 1970.

Albums with The Miracles

Hi, We're the Miracles, Motown, 1961.

Shop Around, Motown, 1962.

Doin' Mickey's Monkey, Motown, 1963, reissued, 1989.

The Fabulous Miracles, Motown, 1964.

The Miracles on Stage, Motown, 1964.

Going to a Go Go, Motown, 1964, reissued, 1989.

The Miracles From the Beginning, Motown, 1965.

Away We a Go Go, Motown, 1965, reissued, 1989.

Make It Happen, Motown, 1968.

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Motown, 1968, reissued, 1987.

The Miracles Live, Motown, 1969.

Special Occasion, Motown, 1969.

Time Out for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Motown, 1970, reissued, 1989.

Four in Blue, Motown, 1970.

What Love Has Joined Together, Motown, 1970, reissued, 1990.

Smokey and the Miracles, Motown, 1971.

1957-1972, Motown, 1973.

Anthology, Motown, 1974.

The Miracles, CBS, 1977.

Compact Command Performance, Motown.

Compact Command Performance, Vol. 2, Motown, 1986.

Going to a Go Go/The Tears of a Clown, Tamla, 1986.

Christmas With the Miracles, Motown, 1987.

The Season for Miracles (reissued), Motown, 1991.

(With others) Great Songs & Performances That Inspired theMotown 25th Anniversary TV Show, Motown.

The Tears of a Clown, Motown.

I Like It Like That, Motown.

Cookin' With the Miracles, Motown.

One Dozen Roses, Motown.

Flying High Together, Motown.

Greatest Hits From the Beginning, Motown.

(With others) Motown Legends, Motown.

Selected writings

(With David Ritz) Smokey: Inside My Life (autobiography), McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Sources

Books

Given, Dave, The Dave Given Rock 'n' Roll Stars Handbook, Exposition Press, 1980.

Robinson, Smokey, and David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Periodicals

America's Intelligence Wire, July 23, 2004.

Dallas Morning News, June 21, 2004.

Detroit News, October 20, 1991.

Down Beat, June 1983.

Ebony, October 1971; October 1982; March 1989; May 1989; June 2004, p. 80.

Essence, February 1982.

High Fidelity, June 1980; May 1981; May 1982; July 1982; April 1986.

Jet, January 31, 1980; July 9, 1981; August 3, 1987; March 13, 1989; November 13, 1989; December 18, 1989; April 8, 1991; November 11, 1991.

Musician, February 1992.

New Republic, July 15, 1991.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, March 10, 1980; April 28, 1980; April 12, 1982; May 16, 1983; August 13, 1984; May 20, 1985; December 16, 1985; March 10, 1986; May 18, 1987; March 13, 1989; April 3, 1989.

Playboy, July 1985; June 1986.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1989.

Rolling Stone, April 16, 1981; September 17, 1981; February 12, 1987; April 23, 1987; December 17, 1987; February 9, 1989.

Stereo Review, July 1980; May 1982; January 1984; November 1986.

Variety, May 22, 1985; October 15, 1986; December 23, 1987; March 1, 1989.

—Anne Janette Johnson andKelly Winters

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Robinson, Smokey

Smokey Robinson

1940

Singer, songwriter, record producer

Smokey Robinson, the "poet laureate of soul music," has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for more than four decades. As the lead singer of the Miracles, Robinson, who moved to SBK Records later in his career, helped to put Detroit and its Motown Records on the music map; his solo performances have netted Grammy Awards and praise from pundits who usually shun the pop genre. People contributor Gail Buchalter labeled Robinson "one of the smoothest tenors in soul music," a romantic idol whose 60 million-plus in record sales "helped turn Motown into the largest black-owned corporation in the world."

According to Jay Cocks in Time, Robinson has written, produced, and performed "some of the most enduring rhythm and blues [songs] ever made. The church kept easy company with the street corner in his rich melodies, and his lyrics had a shimmering, reflective grace that, at his pleasure, could challenge or seduce. With the Miracles, Smokey helped make a kind of soul music that balanced ghetto pride and middle-class ambition. Some of the group's best tunesstayed true to the R&B roots even as they beckoned, and found, a larger pop audience." In Rolling Stone, Steve Pond concluded that Robinson has written "some 4000 songs and recorded hundreds that have made him a true poet of the soul and a voice of the soul, too."

William "Smokey Joe" Robinson, Jr., not only rose from obscurity, he brought along a number of other now-famous black recording stars when he began to find success. He was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he recalled in People, "you were either in a [music] group or a gang or both." Young Smokey grew up listening to his mother's record collection, which included the works of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. These black artists, he commented in Rolling Stone, were "the first inspirational thing I had." When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him in, raising him along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles three years later to accommodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959. At first the members of the Miracleswho were each paid five dollars per week by their agent, Berry Gordyfound the music business difficult. "For a while," Claudette Robinson related in Essence, "we lived basically in one bedroom. But we didn't stay in that house very long. Fortunately, the music started to happen."

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling music producer on a shoestring budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce the Miracles's singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, "Got a Job"an answer to The Silhouettes's number one hit "Get a Job"hit Number 93 on the nationwide Billboard Top 100 chart. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would attain in 1960. Late in that year they released an upbeat single, "Shop Around," that became a chart-topping million-seller. The Miracles subsequently became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.

Robinson and the Miracles were Gordy's first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company gained prestige. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well. He explained the Motown philosophy in Rolling Stone : "We set out tomake music for people of all races and nationalities. Not to make black musicwe just wanted to make good music that would be acceptable in all circles. All we were doing, man, was just putting good songs on good tracks, songs that anybody could relate to. We had good, solid songs that would fit your particular life situation if you were white or Oriental or Chicano or whatever you happened to be. And that made a world of difference."

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown sound competed with the music of the British invasion for popularity among the young. Robinson and the Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than six gold records containing such hits as "The Tracks of My Tears," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "I Second That Emotion," and "Ooo Baby Baby." Still, Robinson was on the verge of quitting the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when a Miracles single, "The Tears of a Clown," became a Number One hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson noted in Rolling Stone that "The Tears of a Clown" became "the biggest record we ever had. It catapulted us into another financial echelon as far as what we made on dates, and I felt that the band was entitled to reap the benefits."

At a Glance

Born William Robinson, Jr., February 19, 1940, in Detroit, MI; married Claudette Rogers (a singer), November 7, 1959 (divorced); Frances (an interior designer), 2002; children: Berry William, Tamla Claudette.

Career: Singer and songwriter, 1954. Founder of group the Matadors, 1954; group's name changed to the Miracles, 1957; performed with the Miracles, 1957-72; solo performer, backed by group Quiet Storm, 1972; cofounder, with Berry Gordy, Jr., of Tamla record label, 1959; vice-president of Motown Records, 1972-91.

Awards: Grammy Award nomination for best rhythm and blues song, 1979, for "Cruisin'"; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, both 1986; Grammy Award for best male rhythm and blues vocal performance, 1987, for "Just to See Her"; Grammy Legend Award, 1990; lifetime achievement award, Motor City Music Awards, 1992; BET Walk of Fame Award, 2004.

Addresses: Home Los Angeles, CA; Agent Michael Roshkind, 6255 Sunset Blvd., 18th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90028; Label SBK Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104; Web www.smokeyrobinsonfoods.com.

The Miracles, a model group in terms of road behavior, endured until 1972, when Robinson quit. For a time after leaving the Miracles, Robinson concentrated on his business duties as vice-president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. His solo albums are, on the whole, more reflective and mellow than his work with the Miracles. All of them highlight the singer's particular talentthe creation and performance of meaningful love songs at a time when many erstwhile romantics have become jaded cynics. Stephen Holden summed up the reason for the immense popularity of Robinson's music in Rolling Stone : "Smokey Robinson is that rare pop singer whose rhapsodic lyricism hasn't diminished with approaching middle age. Indeed, time has added a metaphysical depth to his art. Smokey Robinson's faith in the redemptive power of erotic love continues unabated."

In Robinson's musical world, "sexual happiness isn't the product of spiritual equilibrium but its source. Don't think, however, that Robinson's songs aren't filled with sex. They are. But in this man's art, sex isn't a fast roll in the hay, it's sweet manna shared during a leisurely stroll into paradise. Smokey Robinson creates that paradise every time he opens his mouth to sing," according to Rolling Stone. Robinson's records of the late 1980s, when he was well into his third decade in the music business, continued to garner popularity and the approval of critics. A People reviewer found that on Smoke Signals of 1986, for example, the singer "remains a uniquely resilient performer," and 1987's One Heartbeat was termed "another winning package of sharp, sophisticated soul" in Rolling Stone. Robinson hits like "Cruisin'," "Just to See Her"a Grammy Award winnerand "Being With You" became both rhythm-and-blues and pop hits and were rendered in a voice Essence contributor Jack Slater hailed as "a hypnotic, airy aphrodisiac that puts tens of thousands in the mood for love." Coupled with his success with the Miracles and as a prolific Motown songwriter, Robinson's solo achievements in the music industry led to his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was named a Grammy Living Legend. Coping with such enormous fame has not always been easy for Robinson. He chronicles his personal struggles in his 1989 collaboration with David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life. Musician contributor Jon Young remarked that the autobiography "documents everything from [Robinson's] family history and the early days of the Miracles to his extramarital affairs and, most striking, a graphic account of two years in thrall to cocaine in the mid-'80s." When asked why he chose to provide such candid details about his drug addiction, Robinson responded to Young, "I wrote it because it was God's will. I was saved from drugs in 1986 when my pastor prayed for me. I never went to rehab or to a doctor. It was a miracle healing from God, so that I could carry the message about the perils of drugs. At the time I was saved, I was already dead. You are now speaking to Lazarus."

With the onset of the 1990s, Robinson's contract with Motown Records expired, and after a long and productive career with the record company, he moved to SBK Records. According to Gary Graff of the Detroit Free Press, the singer said simply, "My contract with Motown was up, and I was just out of there." He also pointed to the sale of Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in 1988 as one of the reasons for his departure. "After we sold the company," he continued to Graff, "it was never really quite the same for me." With SBK Records, Robinson released a well-received LP he co-produced and recorded in less than six weeks, 1991's Double Good Everything. "It feels like a new day or something, man," he divulged to Graff. "This is the first thing I've ever done outside of Motown; that's a big deal to me. I feel like a new artist, almost."

Also in 1991, Robinson ventured into previously uncharted areas of the music world, considering an album of country-western tunes and penning the score for a Broadway musical titled Hoops, which presents the history of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. "I've written 22 pieces so far," Robinson told Young in February of 1992. "I want this to be like [the Broadway musical] South Pacific and produce several hits. The title track is a funk thing that I can envision being a halftime song for the NBA [National Basketball Association]."

Robinson had declared to Young in 1992 that "If the world lasts until the twenty-second century, I hope they're still playing my music." And, yes, in the 2000s, Robinson's music vibrated over the airwaves. Creator of more than 4,000 songs, Robinson's soul and his spiritual music, which he began producing in 2004, were cherished by fans. BET's tenth anniversary Walk of Fame program honored Robinson's career in 2004, and attracted 2.6 million viewers, according to PR Newswire. He continued to speak out about the perils of drug addiction and went "anywhere I'm called to go," including churches, prisons, and rehab centers, he told Ebony. And he launched a frozen food venture, selling "Smokey Robinson's: The Soul is in the Bowl" gumbo, red beans and rice, and jambalaya at Chicago-area groceries in 2004. But at age 64, when he performed with 17-year-old, up-and-coming white soul singer Joss Stone at Motown's 45th anniversary concert, Robinson made a point of proving his longstanding belief, as he told People, that "Everybody has a soul. I don't think there's an age range or color attached to it." With no sign of retiring, Robinson seemed primed to pursue his career to a ripe old age. He told America's Intelligence Wire that "I've been blessed enough to have a job that I love and it's by God's grace that I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm living beyond my wildest imagination."

Selected discography

Albums (with the Miracles)

Hi, We're the Miracles, Motown, 1961.

Shop Around, Motown, 1962.

Doin' Mickey's Monkey, Motown, 1963, reissue, 1989.

The Fabulous Miracles, Motown, 1964.

The Miracles on Stage, Motown, 1964.

Going to a Go Go, Motown, 1964, reissue, 1989.

The Miracles From the Beginning, Motown, 1965.

Away We a Go Go, Motown, 1965, reissue, 1989.

Make It Happen, Motown, 1968.

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Motown, 1968, reissue, 1987.

The Miracles Live, Motown, 1969.

Special Occasion, Motown, 1969.

Time Out for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Motown, 1970, reissue, 1989.

Four in Blue, Motown, 1970.

What Love Has Joined Together, Motown, 1970, reissue, 1990.

Smokey and the Miracles, Motown, 1971. 1957-1972, Motown, 1973.

Anthology, Motown, 1974.

The Miracles, CBS, 1977.

Compact Command Performance, Vol. 2, Motown, 1986.

Going to a Go Go/The Tears of a Clown, Tamla, 1986.

Christmas With the Miracles, Motown, 1987.

Solo albums

Renaissance, Motown, 1973.

Smokey, Motown, 1973.

Pure Smokey, Motown, 1974, reissue, 1982.

Do It, Baby, Motown, 1974.

A Quiet Storm, Motown, 1974, reissue, 1989.

City of Angels, Motown, 1974.

Love Machine, Motown, 1975.

Smokey's Family Robinson, Motown, 1975.

Power of the Music, Motown, 1977.

Deep in My Soul, Motown, 1977.

Love Crazy, CBS, 1977.

Smokey's World, Motown, 1978.

Love Breeze, Motown, 1978.

Smokin', Motown, 1978.

Where There's Smoke, Motown, 1979, reissue, 1989.

Warm Thoughts, Motown, 1980.

Being With You, Motown, 1981.

Yes It's You, Lady, Motown, 1981.

Touch the Sky, Motown, 1983.

Great Songs and Performances, Motown, 1983.

Essar, Motown, 1984.

Smoke Signals, Tamla, 1986.

One Heartbeat, Motown, 1987.

Blame It on Love and All the Great Hits, Motown, 1990.

Love, Smokey, Motown, 1990.

Double Good Everything, SBK, 1991.

Intimate, SBK, 1999.

Food for the Spirit, Liquid 8, 2004.

Books

(With David Ritz) Smokey: Inside My Life (autobiography), McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Sources

Books

Given, Dave, The Dave Given Rock 'n' Roll Stars Handbook, Exposition Press, 1980.

Robinson, Smokey, and David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Periodicals

America's Intelligence Wire, July 23, 2004.

Detroit News, October 20, 1991.

Down Beat, June 1983.

Ebony, October 1971; October 1982; March 1989; May 1989; June 2004.

Essence, February 1982.

High Fidelity, June 1980; May 1981; May 1982; July 1982; April 1986.

Jet, January 31, 1980; July 9, 1981; August 3, 1987; March 13, 1989; November 13, 1989; December 18, 1989; April 8, 1991; November 11, 1991.

Musician, February 1992.

New Republic, July 15, 1991.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, March 10, 1980; April 28, 1980; April 12, 1982; May 16, 1983; August 13, 1984; May 20, 1985; December 16, 1985; March 10, 1986; May 18, 1987; March 13, 1989; April 3, 1989; November 8, 2004.

Playboy, July 1985; June 1986.

PR Newswire, October 28, 2004.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1989.

Rolling Stone, April 16, 1981; September 17, 1981; February 12, 1987; April 23, 1987; December 17, 1987; February 9, 1989.

Stereo Review, July 1980; May 1982; January 1984; November 1986.

Variety, May 22, 1985; October 15, 1986; December 23, 1987; March 1, 1989.

Anne Janette Johnson and

Sara Pendergast

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Robinson, Smokey

Smokey Robinson

Singer, songwriter, record company executive

For the Record

Compositions

Selected discography

Sources

Smokey Robinson, the poet laureate of soul music, has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for three decades. As the lead singer of The Miracles, Robinson helped to put Detroit and its Motown Records on the music map; more recently, his solo performances have netted Grammy Awards and praise from pundits who usually shun the pop genre. People magazine contributor Gail Buchalter calls Robinson one of the smoothest tenors in soul music, a romantic idol whose 60 million-plus in record sales helped turn Motown into the largest black-owned corporation in the world.

According to Jay Cocks in Time, Robinson has written, produced, and performed some of the most enduring rhythm and blues ever made. The church kept easy company with the street corner in his rich melodies, and his lyrics had a shimmering, reflective grace that, at his pleasure, could challenge or seduce. With the Miracles, Smokey helped make a kind of soul music that balanced ghetto pride and middle-class ambition. Some of the groups best tunes stayed true to the R & B roots even as they beckoned, and found, a larger pop audience. In Rolling Stone, Steve Pond concluded that Robinson has written some 4000 songs and recorded hundreds that have made him a true poet of the souland a voice of the soul, too.

William Smokey Joe Robinson, Jr. not only rose from obscurity, he brought along a number of other now-famous black recording stars when he began to find success. He was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he told People, you were either in a [music] group or a gangor both. Young Smokey grew up listening to his mothers records, including the works of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. He told Rolling Stone that these black artists were the first inspirational thing I had. When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him to raise along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm & blues group called The Matadors; the name was changed to The Miracles three years later to accomodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959. At first The Miracles found the music business difficult, even with the

For the Record

Full name, William Robinson, Jr.; born February 19, 1940, in Detroit, Mich.; married Claudette Rogers (a singer), November 7, 1959 (divorced); children: Berry William, Tamla Claudette.

Singer, songwriter, 1954; founder of group The Matadors, 1954, groups name changed to The Miracles, 1957; performer with The Miracles, 1957-72; solo performer, backed by group Quiet Storm, 1972; co-founder (with Berry Gordy, Jr.) of Tamla record label, 1959; vice-president of Motown Records, 1972; has made numerous television appearances, including own special in 1971; appeared on Broadway in An Evening With Smokey Robinson, 1985.

Awards: Grammy Award nomination for best rhythm and blues song, Cruisin, 1979; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986, and Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1986; Grammy Award for best male rhythm and blues vocal performance, 1987, for Just to See Her.

Addresses: Home Los Angeles, CA;Office Motown Record Corp., 6255 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. Agent c/o Michael Roshkind, 6255 Sunset Blvd., 18th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

five-dollars-per-week salaries granted them by their energetic young agent, Berry Gordy. For a while, Claudette Robinson told Essence, we lived basically in one bedroom. But we didnt stay in that house very long. Fortunately, the music started to happen.

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling music producer on a shoestring budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce The Miracles singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, Got a Job (an answer to The Silhouettes number one hit Get a Job), hit number 93 on the nationwide Billboard Top 100. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would attain in 1960. Late in that year they released an upbeat single, Shop Around, that became a chart-topping million seller. The Miracles became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.

Robinson and The Miracles were Gordys first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company gained prestige. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well. He explained the Motown philosophy in Rolling Stone: We set out to make music for people of all races and nationalities. Not to make black musicwe just wanted to make good music that would be acceptable in all circles. All we were doing, man, was just putting good songs on good tracks, songs that anybody could relate to. We had good, solid songs that would fit your particular life situation if you were white or Oriental or Chicano or whatever you happened to be. And that made a world of difference.

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown Sound competed with the British Invasion as the most popular new music for the young. Robinson and The Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than a half dozen gold records with hits including The Tracks of My Tears, Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, I Second That Emotion, and Ooo Baby Baby. Still, Robinson was on the verge of quitting the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when a Miracles single, The Tears of a Clown, became a number one hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson told Rolling Stone that The Tears of a Clown became the biggest record we ever had. It catapulted us into another financial echelon as far as what we made on dates, and I felt that the band was entitled to reap the benefits. The Miracles endured, a model group in terms of road behavior, until 1972, when Robinson quit.

For a time after leaving The Miracles, Robinson concentrated on business duties as vice-president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. Robinsons solo albums are, on the whole, more reflective and mellow than his work with The Miracles. All of them highlight the singers particular talentthe creation and performance of meaningful love songs in a day when many erstwhile romantics have become jaded cynics. Stephen Holden analyzed Robinsons music in Rolling Stone: Smokey Robinson is that rare pop singer whose rhapsodic lyricism hasnt diminished with approaching middle age. Indeed, time has added a metaphysical depth to his art. The postadolescent Romeo who created The Tracks of My Tears and Ooh, Baby Baby exudes the same sweetness today he did fifteen years ago, but his tenor and falsetto have shaded into a single dusky croon. Smokey Robinsons faith in the redemptive power of erotic love continues unabated. In Robinsons musical world, sexual happiness isnt the product of spiritual equilibrium but its source. Dont think, however, that Robinsons songs arent filled with sex. They are. But in this mans art, sex isnt a fast roll in the hay, its sweet manna shared during a leisurely stroll into paradise. Smokey Robinson creates that paradise every time he opens his mouth to sing. Recent Robinson hits include Cruisin, Just to See Her, and Being with You, all rendered in a voice Essence contributor Jack Slater described as a hypnotic, airy aphrodisiac that puts tens of thousands in the mood for love. In the Chicago Tribune, Lynn Van Matre notes that when Robinson is singing, he is among the most appealing of soul men, sexy in a low-key, warm way that generates a far greater amount of genuine heat than all the contrived posturings of the giddy-up gonads group currently doing the old synthetic sex soft shoe.

Robinson plans to keep writing songs, singing, and producing music indefinitely. He told Time that he still loves to perform for live audiences. If I dont remember all the words to some of the old songs, Ill sing what I remember, he said. We all have a great time. I can be down in the dumps and really feeling bad. But when I go onstage, its like wow. Nor does Robinson plan to discontinue writing love songs, the appeals to romance, and the laments on separation that have made him famous. Love is basically what were all about, man, he told Rolling Stone.Were about our business, the nine-to-five trip, but our basic thing in life is love. Its the most powerful force. Its never passe, its not a fad. Its always.

Compositions

Has written and co-written numerous songs, 1954, including Aint That Peculiar?, Dont Mess With Bill, Going to a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion, Its Growing, More Love, My Girl, The Tracks of My Tears, You Beat Me to the Punch, Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, Here I Am Baby, Ill Be Doggone, The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage, Ooo Baby Baby, Two Lovers, Cruisin, First I Look at the Purse, and The Tears of a Clown.

Selected discography

Major single releases; with The Miracles; all released by Tamla

Got a Job, March, 1958.

Shop Around, November, 1960.

Whats So Good About Goodbye?, January, 1962.

Ill Try Something New, May, 1962.

Youve Really Got a Hold on Me, December, 1962.

Mickeys Monkey, August, 1963.

I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying, November, 1963.

Ooo Baby Baby, April, 1965.

The Tracks of My Tears, July, 1965.

Going to a Go-Go, January, 1966.

The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage, March, 1967.

More Love, June, 1967.

I Second That Emotion, November, 1967.

The Tears of a Clown, December, 1970.

Major single releases; solo

Cruisin, 1979.

Just to See You, 1987.

Being with You.

LPs; with The Miracles

Hi, Were the Miracles, Motown, 1961.

Shop Around, Motown, 1962.

Doin Mickeys Monkey, Motown, 1963.

The Fabulous Miracles, Motown, 1964.

The Miracles on Stage, Motown, 1964.

Going to a Go Go, Motown, 1964.

The Miracles from the Beginning, Motown, 1965.

Away We Go, Motown, 1965.

Make It Happen, Motown, 1968.

Greatest Hits Volume 2, Motown, 1968, reissued, 1987.

The Miracles Live, Motown, 1969.

Special Occasion, Motown, 1969.

Time Out, Motown, 1970.

Four in Blue, Motown, 1970.

What Love Has Joined Together, Motown, 1970.

Smokey and the Miracles, Motown, 1971.

1957-1972, Motown, 1973.

Anthology, Motown, 1974.

The Miracles, CBS, 1977.

Compact Command Performances, Volume 2, Tamla, 1986.

Going to a Go Go/The Tears of a Clown, Tamla, 1986.

Also recorded Cookin with the Miracles, Christmas with the Miracles, Tears of a Clown, I Like It Like That, Greatest Hits, Pocketful of Miracles, One Dozen Roses, The Season for Miracles, Compact Command Performances, Greatest Hits from the Beginning, and Flying High Together, all with Motown.

LPs; solo

Renaissance, Motown, 1973.

Smokey, Motown, 1973.

Pure Smokey, Motown, 1974.

Do It, Baby, Motown, 1974.

A Quiet Storm, Motown, 1974.

City of Angels, Motown, 1974.

Love Machine, Motown, 1975.

Smokeys Family Robinson, Motown, 1975.

Power of the Music, Motown, 1977.

Deep in My Soul, Motown, 1977.

Big Time (motion picture soundtrack), Motown, 1977.

Love Crazy, CBS, 1977.

Smokeys World, Motown, 1978.

Love Breeze, Motown, 1978.

Smokin, Motown, 1978.

Where Theres Smokey, Motown, 1979.

Warm Thoughts, Motown, 1980.

Being with You, Motown, 1981.

Yes Its You, Lady, Motown, 1981.

Pure Smokey, Motown, 1982.

Touch the Sky, Motown, 1983.

Great Songs and Performances, Motown, 1983.

Essar, Motown, 1984.

Sources

Books

Given, Dave, The Dave Given Rock n Roll Stars Handbook, Exposition Press, 1980.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Periodicals

Ebony, October, 1971, October, 1982.

Essence, February, 1982.

People, March 10, 1980.

Rolling Stone, April 16, 1981, September 17, 1981, November 5-December 10, 1987.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson

Motown star Smokey Robinson (born 1940), co-founder of the Tamla record label, has been a composer and performer for more than 30 years.

Smokey Robinson, the "poet laureate of soul music," has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for more than three decades. As the lead singer of the Miracles, Robinson, who moved to SBK Records later in his career, helped to put Detroit and its Motown Records on the music map; his solo performances have netted Grammy Awards and praise from pundits who usually shun the pop genre. People contributor Gail Buchalter labeled Robinson "one of the smoothest tenors in soul music," a romantic idol whose 60 million-plus in record sales "helped turn Motown into the largest black-owned corporation in the world."

According to Jay Cocks in Time, Robinson has written, produced, and performed "some of the most enduring rhythm and blues [songs] ever made. The church kept easy company with the street corner in his rich melodies, and his lyrics had a shimmering, reflective grace that, at his pleasure, could challenge or seduce. With the Miracles, Smokey helped make a kind of soul music that balanced ghetto pride and middle-class ambition. Some of the group's best tunes… stayed true to the R & B roots even as they beckoned, and found, a larger pop audience." In Rolling Stone, Steve Pond concluded that Robinson has written "some 4000 songs and recorded hundreds that have made him a true poet of the soul and a voice of the soul, too."

The Miracles's Success Spawned Motown Records

William "Smokey Joe" Robinson, Jr., not only rose from obscurity, he brought along a number of other now-famous black recording stars when he began to find success. He was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he recalled in People, " you were either in a [music] group or a gang or both." Young Smokey grew up listening to his mother's records, including the works of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. These black artists, he commented in Rolling Stone, were "the first inspirational thing I had." When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him in, raising him along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles three years later to accommodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959. At first the members of the Miracles—who were each paid five dollars per week by their agent, Berry Gordy—found the music business difficult. "For a while," Claudette Robinson related in Essence, " we lived basically in one bedroom. But we didn't stay in that house very long. Fortunately, the music started to happen."

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling music producer on a shoestring budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce the Miracles's singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, "Got a Job" —an answer to The Silhouettes's number one hit "Get a Job" — hit Number 93 on the nationwide Billboard Top 100 chart. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would attain in 1960. Late in that year they released an upbeat single, "Shop Around," that became a chart-topping million-seller. The Miracles subsequently became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.

Became a Sought-After Songwriter

Robinson and the Miracles were Gordy's first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company gained prestige. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well. He explained the Motown philosophy in Rolling Stone: " We set out to make music for people of all races and nationalities. Not to make black music—we just wanted to make good music that would be acceptable in all circles…. Allwe were doing, man, was just putting good songs on good tracks, songs that anybody could relate to. We had good, solid songs that would fit your particular life situation if you were white or Oriental or Chicano or whatever you happened to be. And that made a world of difference."

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown sound competed with the music of the British invasion for popularity among the young. Robinson and the Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than six gold records containing such hits as "The Tracks of My Tears," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "I Second That Emotion," and "Ooo Baby Baby." Still, Robinson was on the verge of quitting the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when the Miracles single, "Tears of a Clown," became a Number One hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson noted in Rolling Stone that "Tears of a Clown" became the biggest record we ever had. It catapulted us into another financial echelon as far as what we made on dates, and I felt that the band was entitled to reap the benefits." The Miracles, a model group in terms of road behavior, endured until 1972, when Robinson quit.

For a time after leaving the Miracles, Robinson concentrated on his business duties as vice-president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. His solo albums are, on the whole, more reflective and mellow than his work with the Miracles. All of them highlight the singer's particular talent—the creation and performance of meaningful love songs at a time when many erstwhile romantics have become jaded cynics. Stephen Holden summed up the reason for the immense popularity of Robinson's music in Rolling Stone: "Smokey Robinson is that rare pop singer whose rhapsodic lyricism hasn't diminished with approaching middle age. Indeed, time has added a metaphysical depth to his art…. Smokey Robinson's faith in the redemptive power of erotic love continues unabated. In Robinson's musical world, sexual happiness isn't the product of spiritual equilibrium but its source…. Don't think, however, that Robinson's songs aren't filled with sex. They are. But in this man's art, sex isn't a fast roll in the hay, it's sweet manna shared during a leisurely stroll into paradise. Smokey Robinson creates that paradise every time he opens his mouth to sing."

Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Robinson's records of the late 1980s, when he was well into his third decade in the music business, continued to garner popularity and the approval of critics. A People magazine reviewer found that on his 1986 album Smoke Signals, for example, the singer "remains a uniquely resilient performer." His 1987's album entitled One Heartbeat was termed "another winning package of sharp, sophisticated soul" by a reviewer from Rolling Stone. Robinson hits like "Cruisin'," "Just to See Her" —a Grammy Award winner— and "Being With You" became both rhythm-and-blues and pop hits and were rendered in a voice Essence contributor Jack Slater hailed as "a hypnotic, airy aphrodisiac that puts tens of thousands in the mood for love." Coupled with his success with the Miracles and as a prolific Motown song-writer, Robinson's solo achievements in the music industry led to his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was named a Grammy Living Legend.

Coping with such enormous fame has not always been easy for Robinson. He chronicles his personal struggles in his 1989 collaboration with David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life. Musician contributor Jon Young remarked that the autobiography "documents everything from [Robinson's] family history and the early days of the Miracles to his extramarital affairs and, most striking, a graphic account of two years in thrall to cocaine in the mid-'80s." When asked why he chose to provide such candid details about his drug addiction, Robinson responded to Young, "I wrote it because it was God's will… . I was saved from drugs in 1986 when my pastor prayed for me. I never went to rehab or to a doctor. It was a miracle healing from God, so that I could carry the message about the perils of drugs. At the time I was saved, I was already dead. You are now speaking to Lazarus."

Left Motown for SBK Records

With the onset of the 1990s, Robinson's contract with Motown Records expired, and after a long and productive career with the record company, he moved to SBK Records. According to Gary Graff of the Detroit Free Press, the singer said simply, "My contract with Motown was up, and I was just out of there." He also pointed to the sale of Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in 1988 as one of the reasons for his departure. "After we sold the company," he continued to Graff, "it was never really quite the same for me." With SBK Records, Robinson released a well-received LP he co-produced and recorded in less than six weeks, 1991's Double Good Everything. "It feels like a new day or something, man," he divulged to Graff. "This is the first thing I've everdone outside of Motown; that's a big deal to me… . I feel like a new artist, almost."

Also in 1991, Robinson ventured into previously un-chartered areas of the music world, considering an album of country-western tunes and penning the score for a Broadway musical titled Hoops, which presents the history of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. "I've written 22 pieces so far," Robinson told Young in February of 1992. "I want this to be like [the Broadway musical] South Pacific and produce several hits. The title track is a funk thing that I can envision being a halftime song for the NBA [National Basketball Association]." Robinson plans to continue his often hectic schedule of performing, comosing, and recording. "If the world lasts until the twenty-second century," the enduring singer-songwriter declared to Young, "I hope they're still playing my music."

Further Reading

Given, Dave, The Dave Given Rock 'n' Roll Stars Handbook, Exposition Press, 1980.

Robinson, Smokey, and David Ritz., Smokey: Inside My Life, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Detroit News, October 20, 1991.

Down Beat, June 1983.

Ebony, October 1971; October 1982; March 1989; May 1989.

Essence, February 1982.

High Fidelity, June 1980; May 1981; May 1982; July 1982; April 1986.

Jet, January 31, 1980; July 9, 1981; August 3, 1987; March 13, 1989; November 13, 1989; December 18, 1989; April 8, 1991; November 11, 1991.

Musician, February 1992.

New Republic, July 15, 1991.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, March 10, 1980; April 28, 1980; April 12, 1982; May 16, 1983; August 13, 1984; May 20, 1985; December 16, 1985; March 10, 1986; May 18, 1987; March 13, 1989; April 3, 1989.

Playboy, July 1985; June 1986.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1989.

Rolling Stone, April 16, 1981; September 17, 1981; February 12, 1987; April 23, 1987; December 17, 1987; February 9, 1989.

Stereo Review, July 1980; May 1982; January 1984; November 1986.

Variety, May 22, 1985; October 15, 1986; December 23, 1987;March 1, 1989. □

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Robinson, Smokey

Smokey Robinson

Born: February 19, 1940
Detroit, Michigan

African American singer, songwriter, and producer

Hailed by some as the greatest living American songwriter, Motown star Smokey Robinson has been composing and singing rhythm and blues hits for more than three decades.

Growing up a "Miracle"

William "Smokey" Robinson Jr. was born on February 19, 1940, in Detroit, Michigan, in the rough Brewster ghetto, a poor and generally dangerous neighborhood. Young Smokey grew up listening to his mother's records, including the works of B. B. King (1925), Muddy Waters (19151983), John Lee Hooker (19172001), Sarah Vaughan (19241990), and Billy Eckstine (19141993). These black artists, he commented in Rolling Stone, were "the first inspirational thing I had." When Robinson was ten, his mother died, and his sister Geraldine took him in, raising him along with her ten children. The family was poor but close-knit, and Robinson spent his youth writing songs and singing in local bands.

Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues (a form of music combining jazz, blues, and other musical styles) group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles three years later when a female singer, Claudette Rogers, joined the group. Rogers married Robinson in 1959. At first the members of the Miracleswho were each paid five dollars per week by their agent, Berry Gordy (1929)found the music business difficult.

Robinson was lucky to have encountered Berry Gordy during an audition for another agent; Gordy, then a fledgling (just starting out) music producer on a limited budget, was equally fortunate to have found Robinson. Gordy began to produce the Miracles' singles in 1958, collaborating with Robinson on lyrics and tunes. Their first release, "Got a Job"an answer to the Silhouettes' number one hit "Get a Job"hit number 93 on the nationwide Billboard Top 100 chart. The debut was encouraging, but nothing prepared Gordy and Robinson for the limelight they would gain in 1960. Late that year they released an upbeat single, "Shop Around," that became a chart-topping million-seller. The Miracles became a national phenomenon, and Gordy was able to launch Motown Records, a landmark production company that introduced such talents as Diana Ross (1944) and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder (1950), Marvin Gaye (19391984), and the Temptations.

Became a sought-after songwriter

Robinson and the Miracles were Gordy's first star-quality group, and they continued their association with Motown as the company grew. Indeed, Robinson wrote hit songs not only for his group but for other Motown headliners as well.

Throughout the 1960s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the Motown sound competed with the music of the British invasion (the sudden appearance of extremely popular British bands, led by the Beatles and Rolling Stones) for popularity among America's youth. Robinson and the Miracles were favorites among the Motown personnel, earning more than six gold records (five hundred thousand or more records sold) containing such hits as "The Tracks of My Tears," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "I Second That Emotion," and "Ooo Baby Baby." Still, Robinson was on the verge of leaving the group in 1968 when his son Berry was born. He reconsidered almost immediately, however, when the Miracles single, "Tears of a Clown," became a number one hit, first in England and then in the United States. Robinson left the Miracles in 1972; the band went on without him until the late 1970s.

For a time after leaving the Miracles, Robinson concentrated on his business duties as vice president of Motown Records. He soon returned to recording, however, this time as a solo artist. His solo albums are, on the whole, more thoughtful and mellow than his work with the Miracles.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Robinson's records of the late 1980s, when he was well into his third decade in the music business, continued to gain popularity and the approval of critics. A People magazine reviewer found that on his 1986 album Smoke Signals, for example, the singer "remains a uniquely resilient performer." His 1987 album entitled One Heartbeat was termed "another winning package of sharp, sophisticated soul" by a reviewer from Rolling Stone. Robinson hits like "Cruisin'," "Just to See Her"a Grammy Award winnerand "Being With You" became both rhythm and blues and pop hits. Coupled with his success with the Miracles and as a major Motown song writer, Robinson's solo achievements in the music industry led to his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was named a Grammy Living Legend.

Coping with such enormous fame has not always been easy for Robinson. He wrote of his personal struggles in his 1989 collaboration with David Ritz, Smokey: Inside My Life. Musician writer Jon Young remarked that the autobiography (a story that recounts one's own life) "documents everything from [Robinson's] family history and the early days of the Miracles to his extramarital affairs and, most striking, a graphic account of two years in the [depths] of cocaine addiction in the mid-'80s." When asked why he chose to provide such candid details about his drug addiction, Robinson responded to Young, "I wrote it because it was God's will. I was saved from drugs in 1986 when my pastor prayed for me. I never went to rehab or to a doctor. It was a miracle healing from God, so that I could carry the message about the perils of drugs. At the time I was saved, I was already dead. You are now speaking to Lazarus."

Left Motown for SBK Records

With the onset of the 1990s, Robinson's contract with Motown Records expired and after a long and productive career with the record company, he moved to SBK Records. With SBK, Robinson released a well-received album he coproduced and recorded in less than six weeks, 1991's Double Good Everything.

Also in 1991 Robinson ventured into previously unchartered areas of the music world, considering an album of country-western tunes and penning the score for a Broadway musical titled Hoops, which presented the history of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

Musical productivity and recognition for his accomplishments have not slowed for Smokey Robinson. In 1999 he released the well-received Intimate album. Two years later Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame & Museum, which is dedicated to "honor the greatest vocal groups in the world."

For More Information

Given, Dave. The Dave Given Rock 'n' Roll Stars Handbook. Smithtown, NY: Exposition Press, 1980.

Robinson, Smokey, and David Ritz. Smokey: Inside My Life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.

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"Robinson, Smokey." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/robinson-smokey