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William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr. (born February 19, 1940) is an Americanmarker R&B and soul singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson is one of the primary figures associated with Motown Records, second only to the company's founder, Berry Gordy. Robinson's consistent commercial success and creative contributions to the label have earned him the title "King of Motown." As a member of the vocal group The Miracles and as a solo artist, Robinson delivered thirty-seven Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987. He also served as the company's vice president from 1961 to 1988.


Early years and formation of The Miracles

Robinson was born and raised in Detroit, Michiganmarker's North End neighborhood. As a child he was nicknamed "Smokey Joe" by an uncle because of his love of cowboy movies. In his teens, this was shortened to "Smokey." In an interview, Robinson claims he has been friends with Diana Ross since she was eleven years old. In 1955, Robinson co-founded a vocal group called The Five Chimes with his best friend Ronald White, and Northern High School classmates Pete Moore , Clarence Dawson, and James Grice. By 1957, the group was renamed the Matadors and included cousins Emerson and Bobby Rogers in place of Dawson and Grice. Emerson was replaced by his sister Claudette Rogers, who later married Robinson. Guitarist Marv Tarplin joined the group in 1958.

With Robinson as lead singer, the Matadors began touring Detroit venues. In 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who co-wrote for them the single "Got a Job," an answer song to the Silhouettes' hit single "Get a Job." The group renamed itself the Miracles, and issued singles on both End Records and Chess Records. Shortly thereafter, Robinson suggested to Gordy that he start a label of his own.

In 1959, Gordy founded Tamla Records, which he soon reincorporated as Motown. The Miracles were among the label's first signees. Gordy and Robinson had a synergistic relationship, with Robinson providing a foundation for Motown's hit-making success and Gordy acting as a mentor for the budding singer and songwriter. By 1961, Gordy had appointed Robinson vice-president of Motown Records, a title Robinson holds for as long as Gordy remains with the company.

Motown and The Miracles

The 1960 single "Shop Around" was Motown's first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and the first major chart success for The Miracles. The song was also Motown's first million selling hit single. The Miracles notched many more hits over the years, including:

Besides penning hits for his own group, Robinson wrote and produced singles and album tracks for other Motown artists. Mary Wells had a hit with the Robinson-penned "My Guy" (1964), and Robinson served as The Temptations' primary songwriter and producer from 1963 to 1966, penning such hits as "The Way You Do the Things You Do", "My Girl", "Since I Lost My Baby", and "Get Ready". Among Robinson's other Motown compositions are "Still Water (Love)" by The Four Tops, "Don't Mess With Bill" and "My Baby Must Be a Magician" by The Marvelettes, "When I'm Gone" by Brenda Holloway, "Ain't That Peculiar" and "I'll Be Doggone" by Marvin Gaye, and "First I Look at the Purse" by The Contours.

His hit songs also earned him the title "America's poet laureate of love." During the course of his 50-year career in music, Robinson has accumulated more than 4,000 songs to his credit. John Lennon of The Beatles made countless remarks regarding Robinson's influence on his music. In a 1969 interview, Lennon stated that one of his favorite songs was The Miracles' "I've Been Good To You", which has similar lyrics to Lennon's "Sexy Sadie". George Harrison also greatly admired Robinson and paid tribute to him in his 1976 song "Pure Smokey". (The Beatles had recorded Robinson and The Miracles' "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" in 1963.) Bob Dylan said of Robinson, that he was "America's greatest living poet."

After marrying Claudette Rogers, Robinson started a family, and named both of his children after Motown: his son was named Berry after the company's founder, and his daughter Tamla after the Motown imprint for which Robinson and The Miracles recorded.

The Miracles remained a premier Motown act through most of the 1960s. Albums were released as "Smokey Robinson & the Miracles" after 1965. By 1969, the group's fortunes began to falter, and Robinson decided to quit The Miracles so that he could remain at home with his family and concentrate on his duties as vice president. The group stopped recording and Robinson prepared to leave the group. Unexpectedly, however, their 1969 recording "Baby, Baby Don't Cry" hit the national Billboard Pop Top 10, and when their 1966 recording of "The Tears of a Clown" was released as a single in 1970, it became a number-one hit in both the United States and the United Kingdommarker.

With the surprise success of "The Tears of a Clown", Robinson was convinced to remain with The Miracles for a few more years. In 1972, however, he followed through on his original plans to leave the group, and The Miracles began a six-month farewell tour. On July 16, 1972, Smokey and Claudette Robinson gave their final performances as Miracles at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Washington, DCmarker, and Robinson introduced the group's new lead singer, Billy Griffin. The Miracles went on for a while, even having another number one hit, "Love Machine", in 1976,and a Platinum Album with [[City of Angels (album)|City Of Angels]] that same year.

Successful solo career

Smokey Robinson began a low-key solo career while concentrating on his duties as vice president of Motown, releasing his first solo LP, Smokey, in 1973. His first hit single, "Sweet Harmony" (1973), was dedicated to The Miracles.

In 1975, Robinson's solo career went into full-drive after the success of the number one R&B hit "Baby That's Backatcha". Robinson's 1976 single "Quiet Storm" and its accompanying album typified a genre of smooth, slow R&B that has spawned late-night radio shows called "quiet storm." Other Robinson solo hits include "Cruisin'" (1979), "Being With You" (a U.K. number-one hit) (1981), "Tell Me Tomorrow" (1982), and "Ebony Eyes", a duet with labelmate Rick James (1983). He also recorded the soundtrack to the film Big Time (1977).

Later years,The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Controversy, awards and accolades

During the mid-1980s, Robinson fell victim to cocaine addiction. His recording slowed, and his marriage to Claudette faltered; the two were divorced in 1986. With the help of friend Leon Kennedy (as described in Robinson's autobiography "Smokey"), Robinson was dramatically healed of his addiction at a religious service. He eventually revitalized his career, scoring hits in 1987 with the Grammy Award-winning "Just to See Her" (a U.S. #8 hit) and "One Heartbeat" (U.S. #10). Also in 1987, British band ABC scored a U.S. and U.K. hit with their tribute to Robinson entitled "When Smokey Sings." In 1987, Robinson published his autobiography, Smokey, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker as a solo artist.s . However, In a move that has since sparked much controversy, the other original members of the Miracles – Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Pete Moore,Marv Tarplin, and Claudette Robinson – were not inducted,for unknown reasons.

Upon Motown's sale to MCA in 1988, Robinson resigned from his position as vice president. After one last album for Motown, Love, Smokey (1990), Robinson departed the company. He released one record for SBK Records, Double Good Everything (1991), the same year he won a Soul Train Music Award for Career Achievement. Eight years later, he returned to Motown, which by then was a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and released Intimate (1999). The same year, Smokey Robinson received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Since then, Smokey has continued to periodically perform and tour. In 2003, Robinson served as a guest judge for American Idol during "Billy Joel Week." He issued a gospel LP, Food for the Spirit in 2004. A new album of pop standards from the early 20th century, Timeless Love, was released in June 2006. It was originally recorded with a jazz combo, but strings were added after the fact, giving the album more of a lush sound but removing much of the jazz feeling of the disc.

In 2004, Robinson's company, SFGL Foods, launched a special brand of gumbo called "Smokey Robinson's 'The Soul is in the Bowl' Gumbo".Smokey Robinson is the spokesman of the Great American Smokeout, which takes place annually one week before Thanksgiving. It is a day when smokers quit smoking for at least a day.

Robinson has appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, the NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives, and on The Rachael Ray Show. He is scheduled to appear on Duets on Fox with Clint Black, Michael Bolton, Macy Gray, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, Brian McKnight, Aaron Neville, Randy Travis, and Dionne Warwick. David Foster will be a judge.

At its 138th Commencement Convocation in May 2006, Howard Universitymarker conferred on Robinson the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa. In December 2006 Robinson was one of five Kennedy Centermarker honorees, along with Dolly Parton (with whom Robinson had recorded a 1987 duet, "I Know You By Heart"), Zubin Mehta, Steven Spielberg and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The ceremony was held on December 3, 2006, and broadcast on CBS on December 26, 2006.

Robinson sang "The Tracks Of My Tears" as a cameo in the 2006 film Last Holiday. Also in late 2006, Robinson reunited with fellow Miracles Bobby Rogers and Pete Moore for the group's first extended interview. This interview forms the basis of the Universal Music DVD release Smokey Robinson and The Miracles: The Definitive Performances, a video retrospective of the group's music and career.

On February 11, 2007 Robinson sang "Tracks Of My Tears" at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, as part of a tribute to R&B music which included Motown labelmate Lionel Richie and current R&B star Chris Brown. Robinson performed on the finale of American Idol on May 23, 2007. Robinson and the top six male contestants performed a medley of his hits.

In November 2007, Robinson toured Australia and performed with Australian band Human Nature on the set of local television programme Dancing With The Stars. On 22 November 2007, Robinson was interviewed by Bob Rogers (not to be confused with Bobby Rogers of The Miracles) on Sydneymarker radio station 2CH.

On August 6, 2008, Robinson appeared at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theatermarker with English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello to record a television special combining on-stage interview and performance segments.

On March 25, 2009, Robinson appeared as a mentor on the popular television show American Idol. He coached the top 10 contestants of Season 8, who performed classic Motown songs. He also premiered the first single, "You're the One For Me", which features Joss Stone. The song also became available on iTunes and Amazon, March 26, 2009. The song is an updated version of the song "You're The One For Me Bobby," which he wrote and produced for The Marvelettes in 1968 for their album "Sophisticated Soul." On March 20 2009, The Miracles were finally honored as a group with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Smokey was present with original Miracles members Bobby Rogers,Pete Moore ,ex-wife (and Bobby's cousin) Claudette Robinson, and ,Gloria White, accepting for her husband , the late Ronnie White. Smokey's replacement, 70's Miracles lead singer, Billy Griffin was also honored. Controversially, original Miracle Marv Tarplin was not honored, against the wishes of his fellow Miracles,and the group's fans, who felt that he should have also been there to share the honor.[22888]

On May 9, 2009, Smokey Robinson received an honorary doctorate degree and gave a commencement speech at Berklee College of Musicmarker's commencement ceremony.

Smokey Robinson appeared in episode 22 with Daryl Hall on Live From Daryl's House.

On August 25, 2009 Robinson released "Time Flies When You're Having Fun." A self produced and written CD of mostly new material on his own RobSo label. The CD includes a cover of the Norah Jones hit 'Don't Know Why'. Special guests on the LP include India Arie, Carlos Santana, and Joss Stone. The Joss Stone duet "You're the one for me" was performed on American Idol. The CD also contains a homage to early Motown and Michael Jackson with the hidden bonus track "I Want You Back."

As the finale to the BBC Electric Proms 2009, Robinson and his band appeared on 24 October with the BBC Concert Orchestra at The Roundhousemarker, London, in a performance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of Motown Records. Brand new arrangements of Robinson's songs had been specially commissioned by the Electric Proms. The show saw him perform a mix of classics, including those written for other Motown artists as well as himself, and new material from his forthcoming 'Time Flies When You’re Having Fun' album. While in the UK Robinson also appeared on Later with Jools Holland (Oct 20), giving a short interview and performing two songs, with Eric Clapton as a backing guitarist (according to Jools Holland during the broadcast, this was at Clapton's request when he heard that Robinson would be appearing).

Smokey Robinson in popular culture

  • ABC recorded a tribute song called "When Smokey Sings" that referenced his influence on the music industry. The single peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. For the week of October 3, 1987, it dropped to #8 as Smokey Robinson's single "One Heartbeat" was peaking at #10. That instance of having a tributor and tributee in the Billboard Top 10 at the same time was a rarity if not a unique event.
  • Smokey's rendition of the National Anthem before Game 5 of the 1986 World Series at Fenway Park is generally considered one of the greatest renditions of the Anthem at a sporting event ever along with Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game and Whitney Houston before the 1991 Super Bowl.
  • George Harrison wrote a song called "Pure Smokey" as a tribute to Robinson. The song was on Harrison's 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3. A year earlier, in 1975 on Extra Texture album, Harrison recorded a song "Ooh, Baby (You Know That I Love You)" that was dedicated to Smokey Robinson.
  • The character C.C. White, a budding songwriter who finds success as an R&B label's main creative force in the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls, is based upon Smokey Robinson. In the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls, C.C. is portrayed by Keith Robinson.
  • Several years ago, Smokey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker. On March 20, 2009, The Miracles as a group were so honored, which then made him one of the few artists in recording history to become a double Walk of Fame honoree.
  • The 1999 novel An Ocean Apart by Robin Pilcher the central character David is a committed Motown fan and one of Smokey Robinson's in particular, and is always moved by the song Tracks of My Tears. The song's first stanza lyrics are also featured in the book.
  • Smokey appears in a classic Sesame Street sketch in a parody of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me", grappling with the letter U... which really has a hold on him.
  • Smokey was mentioned in the Tom Tom Club's dance classic "Genius of Love" for his inimitable singing.
  • Smokey was guest artist on American Idol on March 25–26, 2009.
  • Smokey also had a solo hit with Kenny G called "We Saved The Best For Last."
  • Smokey also appeared in The Temptations TV miniseries where he sang "Really gonna miss you" in the funeral scene for Melvin Franklin
  • In addition to all the film and television roles Smokey Robinson has appeared in; he has also made an appearance in the black-community rooted animated-series "The Proud Family" (in the episode "Wedding Bell Blues"). In which he assumed the role of a guest-artist hired to sing at an extravagant wedding ceremony, for the character "Sugar Mama".
  • Robinson portrayed a taxi driver in the film Hollywood Homicide.
  • Robinson portrayed Linc Greer on NBC's Generations.


Smokey Robinson is today married to Frances Glandney. His ex-wife is Claudette Rogers with whom he had two children: Berry Robinson (named after Berry Gordy) and Tamla Robinson (named after the Motown imprint for which Robinson and The Miracles recorded).He also has a another son, Trey Robinson, from another relationship.*

According to NFL.COM Smokey Robinson now has a great-nephew Duke Robinson, who played Offensive Tackle for the Oklahoma Sooners, and was drafted in 2009 by the NFL's Carolina Panthers.

Solo discography


Tamla (Motown) releases:

Motown releases:

Later releases:

Pop Chart singles

Release date Title Chart positions
US Billboard Hot 100 US R&B US A/C UK Singles Chart Notes
1973 "Sweet Harmony" 48 31
"Baby Come Close" 27 7
1974 "It's Her Turn To Live" 82 29
"Just My Soul Responding" 35 B-side of "It's Her Turn To Live"
"Virgin Man" 56 12
1975 "I Am I Am" 56 7
"Baby That's Backatcha" 26 1
"The Agony And The Ecstasy" 36 7
1976 "Quiet Storm" 61 25
"Open" 81 10
"When You Came" Issued in Canada only
"An Old Fashioned Man"
1977 "There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)" 42 7
"Vitamin U" 101 18
"Theme From Big Time, Part I" 38
1978 "Daylight and Darkness" 75 9
"Why You Wanna See My Bad Side" 52 B-side of "Daylight and Darkness"
"Shoe Soul" 68
1979 "Pops We Love You" 59 26 66 Artist: Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder
"Get Ready" 82
"Cruisin'" 4 4 34
1980 "Let Me Be The Clock" 31 4
"Heavy On Pride (Light On Love)" 34
"Wine, Women and Song" (Duet with Claudette Robinson)
1981 "Being With You" 2 1 4 1
"Aquí Contigo" "Being With You", sung in Spanish
"You Are Forever" 59 31
"Who's Sad" 62
1982 "Tell Me Tomorrow - Part I" 33 3 31 51
"Old Fashioned Love" 60 17 32
"Yes It's You Lady" 107
1983 "Blame It On Love" 48 35 5 Artist: Smokey Robinson with High Inergy
"Don't Play Another Love Song" 103 75 36
"I've Made Love To You a Thousand Times" 101 8
"Touch The Sky" 110 68
1984 "Ebony Eyes" 43 22 35 Artist: Rick James featuring Smokey Robinson
"And I Don't Love You" 106 33
"I Can't Find" 109 41
1985 "First Time on a Ferris Wheel" Artist: Smokey Robinson and Syreeta
1986 "Hold on to Your Love" 11 18
"Sleepless Nights" 51
"Because of You (It's The Best It's Ever Been)"
"Love Will Set You Free (Theme From Solarbabies)" Issued in Canada only; last ever release by Tamla Records
1987 "Just to See Her" 8 2 1 52 Robinson's first single on Motown
"One Heartbeat" 10 3 2
"What's Too Much" 79 16 15
1988 "I Know You By Heart" 22 Artist: Dolly Parton with Smokey Robinson. Released on Columbia Records
"Love Don't Give No Reason" 31 24
1989 "We've Saved The Best For Last" 47 18 4 Artist: Kenny G with Smokey Robinson
"Indestructible" 30 Artist: The Four Tops featuring Smokey Robinson
1990 "Everything You Touch" 4 2
"(It's The) Same Old Love" 68 32
"Take Me Through The Night" 34
1991 "Double Good Everything" 91 23 Robinson's first single for SBK Records
1992 "I Love Your Face" 57
"Rewind" 56
1999 "Easy to Love" 67 Robinson's first single for Universal Records
2009 "Don't Know Why"


  1. Hubbard, Steven and Ross, Scott. "Interview with Smokey Robinson." The 700 Club. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  2. Smokey Robinson's 'The Soul is in the Bowl' Gumbo
  3. SMOKE ON THE DANCEFLOOR - The Sydney Morning Herald
  4. Motown star Smokey Robinson in visa furore - Daily Telegraph
  5. Bob and Smokey - 2CH
  6. Billboard Hot 100 - October 3, 1987 "When Smokey Sings"
  7. Billboard Hot 100 - October 3, 1987 "One Heartbeat"
  8. Chideya, Farai (Dec. 21, 2006). " Bill Condon Tells the Story Behind 'Dreamgirls'" [audio interview]. National Public Radio. Retrieved on Jan. 23, 2007.

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