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Smokey Robinson – The King of Motown
William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. earned the title “King of Motown” for the countless hits and consistent contributions he helped start.
Robinson was born on February 19, 1940 in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in the North End of the same place. His nickname was originally “Smoky Joe” by his uncle due to Robinson’s love of cowboy movies, and was later shortened to “Smoky” when he was a teenager.
Smokey Robinson is an American R&B and soul singer, songwriter, record producer and record executive who has established and made a name for himself. He is the man behind Motown Records who brought the company to success in collaboration with company founder Berry Gordy.
The Miracles formed as a group in late 1958, but its members were seasoned performers, working under various names for many years. In 1955, Robinson founded Five Chimes together with his best friends Ronald White, Peter Moore, Clarence Dawson and James Grice, his former high school classmates. The team was renamed the Matadors in 1957, with Emerson and Bobby Rogers (his cousin) replacing Dawson and Grice. Eventually in 1958, Emerson was replaced by his sister Claudette Rogers and Marv Tarplin joined the group as guitarist.
The newly formed Matadors began a tour in Detroit with Robinson as lead singer. In 1958, he began working with Berry Gordy when the two wrote the song “Got a Job”. They later decided to change the group’s name to Miracles and under this name they recorded for End Records and Chess Records. Shortly thereafter, Robinson suggested to Gordy that the latter should start his own label.
Thus began Tamla Records, founded by Gordy in 1959 and later re-incorporated as Motown. With Robinson and Gordy working together, The Miracles were off to a good start when they signed on. They complemented each other’s talents, and Robinson’s hit-making abilities made Gordy a more effective mentor.
On the business side, Gordy chose Robinson as vice-president of Motown Records. Both continued to serve in their positions until Gordy left Motown. The Miracles had their first big hit in 1960 with a song titled “Shop Around”. It was Motown’s first number one hit on the R&B charts and its first million-selling hit single. A milestone for the label and Smokey Robinson.
Robinson wrote and produced music for other artists, most of them under Motown. He wrote “My Guy” for Mary Wells in 1964 which was a huge worldwide hit that year. For The Temptations, he not only wrote but also produced hits between 1962 and 1966, including “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “My Girl”, “Twice I Lost My Baby”, and “Get Ready”. . “Still Water (Love)” for the Four Tops, “Don’t Miss With Bill” and “My Baby Must Be a Magician” for The Marvelettes, “When I’m Gone” for Brenda Holloway, “Ain’t It Weird” for Marvin Gaye and ” I’ll Be Doggone”, and “First I Look at the Purse” for Contours.
Smokey Robinson was greatly admired by other singers of the stature of John Lennon of The Beatles, who admitted that Smokey’s music influenced his own. In fact, The Beatles Robinson and The Miracles recorded “You Really Got a Hold on Me”. Bob Dylan named him “America’s Greatest Living Poet”. With more than 4,000 songs that became major hits due to his talent, he was honored as “America’s Poet Laureate”.
Motown also had such an influence on Smokey’s personal life that he named his son Berry, the company’s founder, and his daughter Tamla, the label for which they previously recorded as a group. His wife was Claudette Rogers, his co-member in the Matadors who succeeded his brother Emerson Rogers.
By 1969, Robinson had made his family such a top priority that he considered giving up on Miracles. The group’s popularity waned during this time as well, and when the band stopped recording, Robinson thought it was finally time to leave. The turn of events gave them some hope when their 1969 recording of “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” was well received, making it into the National Billboard Pop Top 10. The future became even more promising when they released “The Tears” in 1970. Of A Clown” was a hit on both the US and UK charts.
This changed Robinson’s mind about leaving the band in the short term, but in 1972 he finally decided to leave The Miracles and go solo. His solo career didn’t get off to a good start, and his job as vice-president of Motown took up much of his time. However, the release of his first solo LP in 1973, entitled “Smoky”, achieved partial success and contained the song “Sweet Harmony”, which he dedicated to The Miracles.
This was the beginning of a solo career that continued in the R&B genre with his 1975 hit “Baby That’s Backatcha.” His other solo hits include “Cruisin’ (1979), “Being With You” (1981), “Tell Me Tomorrow” (1982), and “Ebony Eyes” (1983), a duet with Rick James. Which was approx. Never Came was finally a great success.
In the mid-1980s, Robinson became addicted to cocaine, and divorced Claudette in 1986. His job suffered and it was his friend Leon Kennedy who helped him out of his predicament. He eventually recovered from his “bankruptcy”, giving his career another good tune.
He won a Grammy Award for “Just to See Her” in 1988 and released his autobiography “Smoky” in 1988 and was inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” the same year.
Robinson’s days as Motown’s vice president ended with the sale of the label to MCA in 1988, so he left the company in 1990. He won the “Soul Train Music Award for Career Achievement” in 1991 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. .
Since 2000, Robinson has had some periodic acting and other activities. He served as a guest judge on American Idol in 2003, and in 2004, his SFGL Foods company marketed “Smokey Robinson’s ‘The Soul is in the Bowl’ Gumbo”. He also spent time as a spokesperson for the “Great American Smokeout”.
Some of his recent performances include his appearance at the Apollo Theater to record a TV special. In March 2009, he appeared again on American Idol Season 8 as a mentor and coach to the top 10 contestants, and on May 9, 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music.
A truly R&B great, Smokey Robinson has seen it all, and his career is a story that most guys don’t think is anything less than heroic, even though it revolved around the 1960s and 70s phenomenon Tamala Motown – finally met with justice. motown
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