Smokey Robinson

2014 Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson's career first took off in the late 1950s, when Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. took him under his wing. Robinson needed a mentor, and Gordy needed a new talent with musical vision. The pair went far. In the early days, Smokey Robinson was a member of the group The Miracles, one of the first groups to bridge the gap between doo-wop and the new era of soul. The Miracles issued several singles on the End and Chess labels. "Get a Job" became one of their most successful releases.

Through the late '50s and early '60s, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles enjoyed local success but nothing national. Their real break came in the late 60s with the single "Shop Around." The original single was pulled out of print by Gordy, who decided a faster version would please more fans. He was right. The album launched a period of national recognition. "Shop Around" reached number two on the charts. The release established The Miracles as a hit and helped further the success of the Motown label.

Robinson was most often thought of as a balladeer with The Miracles backing him up. But in the early days with The Miracles, Robinson was able to kick it up a notch. Party tunes like "Mickey's Monkey" were smash hits. "Going to a Go-Go" and "I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying" also had fans on their feet, bouncing to the music. In 1962 "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" was a top ten hit. Its pleading, soaring vocals, intricate melody, and smooth lyrics made the song a multigenerational hit. Another respected artist of the decade, Bob Dylan, called Robinson "America's greatest living poet". During the 60s, The Miracles continued their rise to fame and fortune. Their songs made it to the top 40 more than 25 times during the decade. "I Second That Emotion", "The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage", and "Ooo Baby Baby" were some of their biggest this.

During the time of The Miracles' great success, Robinson was also active as a songwriter and producer for some of Motown's many other acts. "My Guy," made famous by Mary Wells, and "My Girl," sung by the Temptations, were both written and produced by Robinson. He also broke ground with the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye. Throughout this period of heavy recording, Robinson still toured with The Miracles. Crowds gathered at ticket booths all over the country to get a seat to see the group led by Robinson. He also started a family with his Miracles co-singer, Claudette Rogers. The two co-stars married in 1964.

By the end of the 1960s, Robinson's role in The Miracles was becoming clear to the public and opening his opportunities to strike out on a solo career. Robinson stayed with The Miracles through the early 1970s before going solo. They released several hits, including the number one charting "Love Machine, Pt. 1". Robinson was now vice president of Motown Records, leader of The Miracles, and beginning his successful solo career. When the 80s came around, Robinson went totally solo with a mellower sound than in his early days with The Miracles. His solo albums and singles, like A Quiet Storm, "Cruisin'", and "Being With You", were great successes. Though his solo career did not gain him as much fanfare as his years as leader of The Miracles, Smokey Robinson still fills auditoriums today. Audiences leave satisfied and filled with Robinson's smooth sounds and cool voice.


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