Introduction and Early Life:
Smokey Robinson was an American R&B, soul and pop singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. After gaining prominence as the founder, chief songwriter and front man of the Motown vocal group the Miracles in the mid-1950s, he also has had a remarkable solo career. One of the greatest and most influential soul and R&B artists in history, Robinson’s role was instrumental in establishing Motown Records as the world’s leading record label.
He also served as a vice president at Motown from 1961 to 1988.
William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. was born into a poor family on February 19, 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. When he was young, Robinson’s mother died of a brain hemorrhage and he was raised by his elder sister.
Career and Musical Achievements:
Smokey Robison formed the first lineup of vocal group which later became the Miracles, with childhood friends Ronald White and Pete Moore, in 1955 at the age of eighteen. His passionate, high-ranging voice deeply impressed Motown owner Berry Gordy and the group secured a recording contract in 1960. Their first hit record was an R&B song, “Shop Around” (1961). The song reached number one on the Billboard magazine R&B charts and number two on its pop music charts.
The Miracles developed a compelling body of work, including classics such as “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “Mickey’s Monkey” (1963), “Going to Go-Go” (1965), “Goo Baby Baby” (1965), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), “More Love” (1967), “I Second That Emotion” (1967) and “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” (1969). The group became known as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles around 1967.
Robinson also wrote and produced huge hits for other Motown artists during the 1960s. A few of them include “My Girl” (1964), “You Beat Me to the Punch” (1962) and “Ain’t That Peculiar” (1965). His songs have been covered by a such artists as the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, among others.
Robinson decided to leave the Miracles in 1972 to start a solo career. He released the highly acclaimed album Quiet Storm (1975) and a series of hit romantic songs such as “Cruisin'” (1979), “Being with You” (1981) and “Just to See Her” (1987).
Awards and Accolades:
Smokey Robinson was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the same year. Robinson won a Grammy Legends Award in 1990. He was awarded a medal at the National Medal of Arts in 1993.
Smokey Robinson married his fellow Miracles member Claudette Rogers in 1959. They had two children together, son Berry Robinson and daughter Tamla Robinson. The couple divorced in 1986.