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Definition: Robinson, Smokey from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US singer, songwriter, and record producer. He was lead singer of the Miracles 1958–72, whose hits include ‘Shop Around’ (1960), ‘I Second That Emotion’ (1967), and ‘The Tears of a Clown’ (1970). He was associated with Motown records from its conception and served as vice president from 1961 to 1988. He was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2016.

His light tenor voice and wordplay characterize his work.

After retiring from the Miracles, he embarked on a solo career: his solo hits include ‘Cruisin'’ (1979) and ‘Being With You’ (1981). A talented songwriter, Robinson also wrote hits for a number of other artists, including ‘My Girl’ for the Temptations and ‘My Guy’ for Mary Wells (both 1964) – each song would go on to become the signature of those artists.

He was born in Detroit, Michigan. In 1955 he formed a doo-wop band, the Five Chimes, with friends Ronald White (1939–1995) and Pete Moore (1951– ). By 1957 the group included Bobby Rogers (1940–2013) and was renamed the Matadors; a year later it was the Miracles and included Claudette Rogers (1942– ) and Marv Tarplin (1941–2011). Rogers and Robinson were married between 1959 and 1986. Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Miracles were added in 2012.

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Smokey Robinson


Summary Article: Smokey Robinson (1940–)
from African American Almanac
Singer, Songwriter, Producer

William Robinson Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 19, 1940. After his mother died when he was ten years old, Robinson was raised by his sister. Nicknamed “Smokey” by his uncle, Robinson was a bright student who enjoyed reading books and poetry. A reluctant saxophone student, Robinson turned his creative energy to composing songs, which he collected in a dime store writing tablet. While attending Detroit's Northern High School in 1954, Robinson formed the vocal group the Matadors, which performed at battle-of-the-band contests and at recreation centers.

Robinson's introduction to Berry Gordy in 1957 resulted in the Matadors’ first record contract with George Goldner's End label. Upon joining the newly formed Motown label in 1960, the group changed its name, upon the suggestion of Gordy, to the Miracles. Although the Miracles's debut album failed to attract notice, the group provided Motown with its first smash hit, “Shop Around” (1961), a song written and co-produced by Robinson.

In close collaboration with Gordy, Robinson spent the following decade as one of Motown's most integral singers and producers. With the Miracles he recorded such hits as “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (1963), “Tracks of My Tears” (1965), “I Second That Emotion” (1967), and “Tears of a Clown” (1970). As a writer, he provided the label with hits like “My Guy” for Mary Wells, “I'll Be Doggone” for Marvin Gaye, and “My Girl” for the Temptations.

In 1972 Robinson left the Miracles to launch a solo career. Despite the moderate success of his records during the disco craze of the 1970s, Robinson continued to perform and record. In 1979 Robinson experienced a comeback with the critically acclaimed hit “Cruisin.” Three years later, Robinson appeared on the NBC-TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Between 1986 and 1991 Robinson released five more albums, including Smoke Signals, One Heartbeat, and Love, Smokey.

Robinson signed with a British company, Music by Design, in 1995 and released Intimate in 1999 while touring and making concert appearances. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986) and received a Grammy Award for his vocal performance of the song “Just to See Her” (1987). He released a gospel record Food for the Spirit (2004) and a pop album Timeless Love (2006). Robinson has received numerous awards including an honorary doctorate from Howard University and Kennedy Center Honors in December 2006.

Proclaimed by Bob Dylan as one of America's greatest poets, Smokey Robinson is a pop music legend who has risen to fame as a brilliant songwriter, producer, and singer. His instantly recognizable falsetto voice continues to bring Robinson gold records and a legion of loyal fans.

Copyright © 2012 by Visible Ink Press®

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